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In the United Kingdom, the authorities are concerned about the situation in Leicester. For several weeks, this large city in the English Midlands has been shaken by clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities.
From our correspondent in London,
The authorities are careful not to qualify the recent clashes as riots, let alone race riots. And prefer the term « disorders », « social unrest ».
Groups of men in their thirties, all in black, masked, take to the streets to face each other. Between them, dozens of policemen, yellow vests on their backs, trying to prevent them from confronting each other directly. These two groups come respectively from the Hindu and Muslim communities of the city. Other images show the removal of a Hindu flag from a temple or crowds, loud music outside a mosque at prayer time.
Rivalries and incitement to hatred
About fifty people were arrested, a young man of 20 was even imprisoned for 10 months for possession of weapons. Twenty-five law enforcement officers were injured. In the city, the restaurants are deserted, the rest of the inhabitants explain to local journalists that they are afraid to go out, especially since these tensions are held even during the day.
The starting point of these riots can be explained by a geopolitical context: the rise of Hindu ultranationalism, in India for several years, and by extension tensions with the Muslim community in the subcontinent. In Leicester, the first clashes took place on August 28, following a cricket match between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, won by India. The match escalated the rivalry between the two communities.
Several weeks of increasing tension
The tensions go back at least to May, and to the rumor of the aggression of a Muslim by Hindus, and to the non-advanced of the police investigation. The match would have been the trigger, and since then, many infox continue to circulate on social networks, which put oil on the fire and fuel tensions: rumors of the kidnapping of a Muslim woman, the ransacking of a mosque, distribution of fake videos…
Leicester is however a city of just under 350,000 inhabitants, widely considered as an example of integration and inter-community cohesion. Since the 1940s, it has welcomed diasporas from all over the world (Poland, Kenya, Ireland, Uganda and the Indian subcontinent, etc.). Authorities are concerned about the risk of spread to other English and British cities.
Religious and community leaders have come together to make a joint statement and call for calm, as soon as possible. They pledge to start an inter-religious dialogue to ease the old underlying tensions.