London, one of the greatest cities in the world for the last 1,000 years or so, continues to slide down, down, down. If you’re unlucky enough to live in the wrong section of London, this is what it’s like to do business:
A corner shop run by an Asian couple has been attacked 200 times in the past decade by thieves and robbers using guns, knives and CS spray.
The owners of the K&S corner shop, in east London, have been threatened, assaulted and racially abused by thugs and feel let down by police. They fear they may be killed.
Leaders of the organisation representing small businesses believe the experiences of Suresh Kumar and his wife, Sebah, in their shop in Plaistow, are typical of thousands of shop owners whose livelihoods, and even their lives, are threatened by crime, much of it drink and drug-fuelled and violent. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said crime against shops costs at least £1.5 billion a year.
The FSB said: “The retail sector suffers the highest level of intimidation or threatening behaviour of any business sector. A third of small firms have been the victim of such crime in the past year.” It demanded tougher action to protect shopkeepers.
The experiences of the Kumars were highlighted last night in an investigation broadcast on ITV’s London Programme. Footage showed a robber ripping a till from the shop counter. Mr Kumar, a father of two, said he had been threatened with a gun, sprayed in the eyes with CS gas and attacked with a sword. He has suffered a broken nose and has been spat on while working in the shop. One scene captured a man shouting at him: “You just keep your mouth shut. You are Asian, you are nothing.”
Working with the police, the FSB plans to offer rewards for information leading to convictions in cases where shopkeepers have been murdered.
In one of the most notorious recent cases, Mahmut Fahri had chilli powder thrown in his face and was then stabbed to death in his shop in Bounds Green, north London, in 2004 by two men who stole two bottles of whisky. One man has been jailed for life for murder and another is serving 12 years for manslaughter.
Given the anarchy that characterizes large swaths of England, it’s perhaps no wonder that England has become a breeding ground for some of the world’s worst terrorists:
Muslim radicals recruited to terrorism in Britain and Europe were labelled a major threat to US national security last night.
The US homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, singled out extremists who have been radicalised in Britain as a danger to America. A report compiled by US security chiefs on the threat to their homeland concluded that British-based Muslims would regard “the use of violence here as legitimate”.
The findings will reinforce efforts by the US government to tighten up visa controls. Mr Chertoff is calling for visitors from the European Union who enter the US via the visa waiver scheme to register their personal details 48 hours before taking a transatlantic flight.
I’m not saying here that the root causes of terrorism are just poverty and racism. Indeed, the high economic and educational status of so many major terrorists and would-be terrorists completely puts the lie to that notion. I am saying, though, that a society that is pockmarked with holes of decay and degradation becomes a perfect petri dish for all sorts of dreadful people and ideologies.