The view from London's streets
UK & Ireland Yahoo! News, 10 October 2001
The Prime Minister's insistence that Britain's participation in the "war on terrorism" is essential has left many people worried about future developments. In a straw poll conducted by the Evening Standard in London yesterday the overriding view was one of concern.

Typical of the people we spoke to was Matt Masters, a 26-year-old bank manager from Morden. He said: "I think the Americans are probably going to send in ground troops. To be honest I think this is going to end up becoming another Vietnam, as our ground troops will not be able to cope with the terrain, the caves and the tactics. It is very worrying indeed."

Mother of two Mary-Jane Howe, 38, from south London, said: "I think we probably have to do something but they are probably going to kill innocent people and I'm not happy about that. It is a worry for us, living in London, that there may be retaliation."

Computer programmer Steve May, 26, from Clapham, said: "All I think is going to happen is that more and more people are going to end up hating the West in general. We might get Bin Laden eventually but I think it will be pointless as there will be another terrorist to take his place."

Mother-of-four Emma Tysoe, 37, from The Oval, said: "I think maybe they will send in ground troops but the nature of the terrain in Afghanistan makes this war unwinnable. It is such a hidden threat we are fighting - who are these terrorists and what are they going to do next? We just don't know."

Estate agent Angus Wood, 29, from Canary Wharf, said: "As far as I can see it is all going to end in chaos, if it ends at all. They will probably send in ground troops but it is hard to see exactly what that will achieve as it doesn't appear they know where to send them or what exactly they might find when they get there.

"I hope Bush and Blair have a clear end-game in mind because otherwise this will all drag on and on with lives on both sides being lost pointlessly."

The predominant opinion among London Muslims is that the US response has been heavy-handed and that the military action will lead to the deaths of yet more innocent people.

Erbil Celebi , a taxi driver from Kent, said: "It's a deeply sad situation and 99 per cent of Muslims feel the same way. We are all the same deep down whatever our religion, someone from Afghanistan has the same hopes and fears as someone from St John's Wood.

"I just hope that eventually some good can come out of this and that eventually people of different cultures and religions will have a better understanding of one another."

Riaz Khan, from Queensway, thinks air strikes will achieve nothing. He said: "The Taliban follow their own set of beliefs and they will never give in to the US."

His friend, Wajid Haider, agreed: "The people the US really want are in hiding and are safe from the attacks. They should be putting their energies into finding those who are genuinely to blame for all of this."

Amer Hasham, from Bayswater, said: "The Taliban asked for evidence that Osama bin Laden was guilty. But that evidence never seemed to materialise. I don't think we know enough of the facts to know who is really behind it."

This view was mirrored by a young Muslim woman who wished to be known only as Jasmine. She said: "The US is definitely being heavy-handed. There was a peaceful alternative, they should have employed members from the Muslim community as diplomats to try and reason with the Taliban.

"They haven't managed to find the people they are after in all this time, so what difference will another week of air strikes make?"

Despite Tony Blair's insistence that the US and UK are not at war with Islam, but with terrorism, some British Muslims are unconvinced.

Speaking on his way to pray at London Central Mosque, one man, who did not wish to be named, said: "I think there are many Muslims, like myself, who see this as an attack on our religion. Not only did the US fail to give the Taliban evidence, the offer to try Bin Laden in an Islamic court was rejected.

It was claimed that the trial would be biased, and that is an insult to the judicial system of the land. The way things have been handled, we have been made to feel as if the Taliban and Bin Laden are the same thing, when they are not."

At the mosque, a woman called Shelley said: "I can sort of understand why the US are doing this because so many people were killed over there. But my concern is that more innocent people are going to be killed. The US likes to describe itself as a civilised country but it has acted in the same way as the terrorists."

After the atrocities in the US, there were reports of attacks on British Muslims in traditional dress, instilling a sense of fear within the community. One woman said the onset of military action has intensified this feeling. She said: "Wherever I go I feel under threat now. I feel people are pointing the finger at me. It is sad that Muslims have been stigmatised like this."

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