How to explain the outbreak of violence between Hindus and Muslims in Leicester?

“While the country was officially in mourning and preparing for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, something quite different was happening in certain streets of Leicester”deplores the Leicester Mercury. On Saturday September 17, clashes erupted between members of the Muslim communities – mainly from the Indian subcontinent – and Hindu communities in this city in central England. The culmination of several weeks of tension, says the local daily.

“For many, the trigger for the riots was the cricket match between India and Pakistan on August 28, Explain The Guardian. After their team’s victory, Indian fans gathered and reportedly sang aggressive and insulting chants towards Pakistan. First frictions, on the sidelines of the greatest sporting rivalry in the world. In the aftermath, rumors and speculation ignite social networks. The attempted kidnapping of a young Muslim girl by three Hindu men? False, the police concluded. The attack on a mosque? Also. “This false information was received by people across the country and some are said to have come to Leicester in reaction to what they saw on the internet”, adds the newspaper classified on the left. What further fuel tensions.

Until the violence last weekend. “A spontaneous protest started by a group of young Hindus led to a counter-protest by members of the Muslim communityrelates the conservative weekly The Spectator. Video footage shows young men with their heads covered with hoods and their faces concealed. Some carry weapons.” All local police forces are mobilized on site. Including the officers originally posted to London for the funeral of Elizabeth II.

Importing tensions between India and Pakistan

“Eyewitnesses say a group of Hindus marched down Green Lane Road [dans l’est de la ville]where many Muslim-owned shops are located, adds The Guardian. Some locals claim to have heard them sing ‘Jai Shri Ram’ a sacred Hindu song that can be translated as ‘Glory to Lord Rama’”. A slogan, above all, co-opted by the nationalists in power in India and “associated with anti-Muslim violence” in the country. Because these tensions undoubtedly exceed the framework of a simple match of cricket, estimates the Leicester Mercury. According to East Leicester MP Claudia Webbe, the malaise has lasted for several months. And each community points the finger at the other.

“Some of the causes that brought about the events of this weekend are undeniably external”, underlines the Leicester Mercury. “It is partly an import of the tensions” between a Muslim-majority Pakistan and a Hindu-majority India, in regular conflict since their independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, summarizes the online magazine spiked. And communal divisions within India itself, as President Narendra Modi “hides less and less the ethnonationalist course that he wants to give to his country”confirm The Guardian.

“The Indian government has changed its policy regarding the Indian diaspora, abandoning the old posture of non-engagement to promote the concept of ‘global Indian family’”.

The fear of contagion

the Leicester Mercury at the same time cites factors “own to the city”, often cited as an example of British-style multiculturalism. Local communities “do not have a collective and cohesive identity, they are divided into subgroups and made up of people from different backgrounds who have different points of view”, analyzes journalist Adam Moss. This violence, he assures, emanates only from small minorities of individuals, but tends to spread at the slightest spark. “Not to mention that migratory flows are never frozen. Leicester is constantly attracting new people from new countries. It has already been widely said that a number of recent migrants to the city are far-right Hindu nationalists.”

Finally, the Leicester Mercury cites the impact of Covid-19, “which has turned communities in on themselves”.

“These abominable scenes are unbecoming of Leicester, which celebrates its multiculturalism as a source of strength and pride,” sorry Adam Moss. The city had become during the 2010s the first in the country to have a majority of non-white residents, recalls The Guardian. “Here, everyone is part of a minority”headlined the weekly The Observer.

« The question on many minds today is: how will the city be able to ease tensions and leave behind recent violence and unrest? »take it back Leicester Mercury. The city’s Muslim and Hindu religious leaders may have called for calm in a joint statement, “the youngest are less able to listen to them than their elders”. For their part, Leicester Police say “work for a rapid resolution of the crisis”as evidenced by the arrest of around fifty people since the end of August.

But already, the British press is reporting a contagion in Birmingham, not far from there, where 200 people gathered in front of a Hindu temple on Wednesday. “Reality is hard to acceptworries The Spectator, but it can be summed up in a few words: young men from two different religious communities are waging war on the streets of Great Britain. Let’s hope this sinister upsurge of bigotry comes to an end soon.”

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