National reports claiming Preston is a segregated community are false and could cause lasting damage, according to city faith workers.
In a piece about radicalisation and Muslim ‘no go’ areas, the Daily Mail quoted an anonymous Lancashire police officer saying Muslim leaders had to give permission before patrols could take place in some areas of Preston. This was followed by a piece in The Sunday Times stating Preston was a segregated community.
Nadeem Ashfaq of the Light Foundation, set up to break down barriers between communities, said: “What has been written in these national papers is completely false. We are working really hard with the Muslim community and interfaith groups to teach Muslims the importance of intergration.
“A lot of Muslims are trying their best. There are Muslims from Preston going to Cumbria, taking aid to white Christians affected by the floods, and to read things like that is disheartening. They will start to say ‘forget it’, we’re trying our best and we’re still being labelled.”
Nadeem added: “People who have come to our meetings and heard our speakers have really enjoyed it. So for them to now be worried about radicalisation is a set back.
“These articles are speaking to the narratives of groups like the English Defence League, and if I were a non-Muslim living in Preston, I’d be scared.
“I’d be worried that there was no smoke without fire. But I can tell you, categorically, there are no places like this here.
“Isis are a bunch of crazy people, they don’t represent what the majority of us Muslims believe in. We want to reassure everyone that there are no radical places in Preston.”
The Daily Mail failed to respond to requests for a comment. Sunday Times managing editor Robert Hands said the paper stood by its article.