Bradford comes of age – Amb. Akbar Ahmed, The Friday Times

Akbar Ahmed on the many faces of Bradford – including the ones that are conveniently ignored.


Amb. Akbar Ahmed with Baroness Sayeeda Warsi and her husband Iftikhar Azam at the Zoya Pakistani restaurant in Bradford. 


For several decades, the image of the Muslim community of Bradford, and the region around it, has been depicted in the media as that of angry-looking, white-bearded Pakistani men dressed in shalwar-kameez demanding the death of Salman Rushdie. Today, however, it is that of educated, intelligent smart women – also with a Pakistani background.

Bradford in the popular British imagination has long meant Islamic fanaticism and fundamentalism, urban crime, drugs and poverty. It has also more recently been associated with such phenomena as “grooming”, terrorism and the shariah-dominated “no-go zones” – defined by Islamophobes as places where non-Muslims ‘fear to tread’. Feeding in to these perceptions was the news last year that three Bradford sisters and their nine children had traveled to Syria to join ISIS together. Terrorism experts tend to look at dense communities like Bradford as hubs of terrorism producing an endless stream of recruits. It is for this reason that the government is constantly placed in the awkward position of implementing extreme measures only to come up with embarrassing results, such as the case of the young schoolboy who was arrested and taken for interrogation when he wrote in a school assignment that he lived in a “terrorist” house when he meant “terraced.” Bradford has thus been labeled a breeding ground for terrorist activity, which has made the city a particular target of the British government’s “Prevent” security strategy, a program that is increasingly being seen as coercive and unfair by the Muslim community. British Muslims use terms like “thought police” and “big brother” when discussing Prevent.

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