By Mark Tallentire
MUSLIM families no longer feel safe living in a North-East town, a community leader has claimed.
Maszlee Malik, a Malaysian Muslim, said Muslim children in Bowburn, near Durham, face daily verbal insults, adults receive no respect and Muslim homes are targeted for anti-social behaviour.
The married father-of-four, who has lived in the town for three years, said racist incidents have increased since he first voiced concerns to The Northern Echo last year, and described the situation in Bowburn as deteriorating.
Mr Malik went public with his concerns last December, after Muslim children allegedly suffered racist abuse walking to and from school. He blames the problems on teenagers in the town.
He said: "To be cursed with racist words like ‘Paki', ‘terrorist', ‘go back to your country' and ‘get out of Bowburn' is part of our daily life. Despite reports being made, we still experience the same intimidation. It has become rampant.
"All those unfortunate incidents that most international families in Bowburn have to face in their brief sojourn in the UK could be summarised in one sentence: ‘We don't feel safe any more living in Durham'."
About 40 Malaysian student families live in Bowburn, with smaller Arab and Chinese communities.
Mr Malik plans to return to Malaysia after completing a politics PhD at Durham University, where he was president of the Islamic Society.
Paul Anderson, Durham Police's neighbourhood inspector for Durham City, said "The police take any racist incidents very seriously and will not tolerate this behaviour. All reported incidents will be thoroughly investigated and a Hate Crime Officer allocated to support the victims wherever possible."
Mr Malik has praised Lynne Lyons, headteacher at Bowburn Junior School, for her work in encouraging integration between ethnic groups.
The school employed County Durham's first Malaysian Muslim teaching assistant to encourage intercultural play and its curriculum includes studying the child in the world.