British Muslims feel like "Jews of Europe"

LONDON Fri Jul 4, 2008 1:03pm BST

The central mosque is seen in Birmingham, England, January 31, 2007. REUTERS/Darren Staples

The central mosque is seen in Birmingham, England, January 31, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Darren Staples

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LONDON (Reuters) - Muslims in Britain feel like aliens in their own society and say they are targeted like "the Jews of Europe", the country's first Muslim government minister said.

International Development Minister Shahid Malik painted a bleak picture of the integration of 1.8 million Muslims, three years after Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people on London's transport system.

The suicide attacks triggered a debate on whether the policy of avoiding imposing a single British identity, and instead promoting a multicultural society, had led to segregation of ethnic minorities.

Malik, who has been the target of race attacks including a firebombing of his family car, said some media coverage "makes Muslims feel like aliens in their own country."

"If you ask Muslims today what do they feel like, they feel like the Jews of Europe," he told a documentary to be shown on Channel 4 television next week, marking the third anniversary of the attacks on July 7, 2005.

"I don't mean to equate that with the Holocaust but in the way that it was legitimate almost -- still is in some parts -- to target Jews. Many Muslims would say that we feel the exact same way."

An ICM survey done for the documentary shows a narrow majority of 51 percent of Britons blame Islam to some degree for the bombings. Eight out of 10 Muslims said they felt there was more religious prejudice against their faith since the bombings.

The issue invariably touches a raw political nerve. In February a leading defence think-tank caused a stir by saying multicultural Britain is an easy target for attacks by militant Islamists because its aims, values and political identity are divided.

In a report strongly rebutted by the government, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) said: "We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."

(Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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