Muslims fear stereotyping

AS FEAR of terrorism grips Europe, Muslims in Portugal are reported to be feeling that they are under unfair suspicion in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings. There are 35,000 Islamic believers in Portugal, many of whom live in the Lisbon area. “Portugal must not ignore security. But it is unacceptable that the Islamic community has become associated in the public mind with terrorist acts,” says Jaime Gabriel de Jesus, a journalist at the Lusa news agency.

He is not alone in highlighting the fact that the Islamic community is feeling somewhat insecure. Others agree and point to the overwhelming law-abiding majority of the Muslim population: “We live in peace and harmony among the Portuguese and other groups in society,” said Yoissuf Adamgy, director of Al-Furqan, a Portuguese Islamic magazine.

The comments came as incidences of racial stereotyping were reported in the Portuguese press. A typical article tells the story of how an Islamic client at the Caixa Geral de Depósitos bank left a branch in Lisbon to go to the cloakroom, leaving six bags with a bank employee. When he returned, Muhamad Khali, 49, discovered that he had become ‘a terrorist threat’ and found himself surrounded by 50 policemen.

Jaime Gabriel de Jesus has interviewed a range of Muslims living in Portugal in a bid to discover their true feelings about the violent attacks perpetrated by Islamic fanatics. He writes of two typical Muslim worker’s views:

Abdul Ohab, from Bangladesh, comes from a country of similar size to Portugal but with 15 times the population, where salaries are 10 times lower. So Abdul, 27, is happy with the 400 euros a month that he earns working in a Porto shop. He only hopes others don’t invoke his Islam and “the killing of the innocents”. The same goes for his compatriot, Sheak Abdul, aged 40 and settled in Portugal since he was eight years old. He resents the terrorism practised by religious fanatical groups. “We are all human and we can’t kill innocent people for no reason,” he commented, in fluent Portuguese.