London is safe if you take care, say Emirati students

LONDON // Emirati students living in London and their parents have dismissed fears that the city is exceptionally dangerous.

But they warn compatriots to better blend in with locals and alter their behaviour, especially after two attacks in the city this month on Emiratis.

Many UAE nationals have taken to social media to express their concerns about London's violent crime.

Student S A, 20, said the brutality of the robberies was shocking but she did not think there was any plot to attack Emiratis.

“London is a big city and big cities are dangerous,” she said. “I think that both situations happened because [the victims] were targetable.

“When you live here long enough, you understand not to dress a certain way and that makes you less of a tempting option for robbers.

“East London, where I live, is dangerous but it’s largely populated by students and young people.

“Because of that robbers don’t go to that area, because they won’t get as much as they would in one of the posher areas.”

In the early hours of Tuesday Ali Al Tamimi, his wife and their guest, all Emiratis, were attacked after seven armed men beat down the door of their rented flat in Paddington.

At one stage the wife, 47, was ordered to sit down while one of the bandits put a gun to her head and another pointed his knife at her.

Mr Al Tamimi, 51, suffered minor injuries that did not require treatment after several attempts to stab him. One of the intruders ordered Mr Al Tamimi to be shot after he removed the mask of another.

Police said cash of more than Dh17,000, two passports, handbags and a bank card were stolen, but that the crime was not racially motivated.

On April 6, three Emirati sisters were attacked in their hotel room in Marble Arch.

Khuloud Al Najjar, 36, lost her left eye and now has only 5 per cent of her brain function. Her sister, Ohoud, 34, suffered two skull fractures, a broken left arm and a fractured cheekbone. Fatima, 31, has a fractured skull and a ruptured left eardrum.

Three men have been charged with the crime and will reappear in court in July.

S A said avoiding crime was a matter of not being conspicuous.

“Our parents and people back home are more worried than we are,” she said. “You learn to live and to be careful, and you know how not to attract unwanted attention.”

R R, an Emirati whose daughter is at university in London, said that parents must teach their children about how to conduct themselves when living and travelling abroad.

“Education starts with the parents,” she said. “I’ve been telling my kids since they were little not to dress up or stand out and this is not just specifically for London, this is for everywhere around the world.

“But when we are in London, she knows … to dress like [British people] and not like us – jeans and flip-flops and when you walk around, keep your eyes straight ahead and be careful.”

From her experiences, R R said many people from the Gulf perhaps acted without enough due concern when travelling abroad.

“Let’s go into the lifestyle of some Gulf citizens when they go to London,” she said. “They always go to extremes and show off.

“She is either getting revenge on her husband by spending all his money or she’s competing with her friends. It’s about time we stopped that.”

But R R said many of her friends are concerned that two families from the UAE should have been attacked within such a short time.

“We are asking, ‘Why Emiratis?’ We have a fear that someone is focusing on us to harm Emiratis,” she said.

“That’s a big question for us.”

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Attacks on Egypt’s long rooted Copts

Egypt’s Copts belong to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, with Mark the Evangelist credited with founding their church around 300 AD. Orthodox Christians account for the overwhelming majority of Christians in Egypt, with the rest mainly made up of Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Anglicans.

The community accounts for some 10 per cent of Egypt’s 100 million people, with the largest concentrations of Christians found in Cairo, Alexandria and the provinces of Minya and Assiut south of Cairo.

Egypt’s Christians have had a somewhat turbulent history in the Muslim majority Arab nation, with the community occasionally suffering outright persecution but generally living in peace with their Muslim compatriots. But radical Muslims who have first emerged in the 1970s have whipped up anti-Christian sentiments, something that has, in turn, led to an upsurge in attacks against their places of worship, church-linked facilities as well as their businesses and homes.

More recently, ISIS has vowed to go after the Christians, claiming responsibility for a series of attacks against churches packed with worshippers starting December 2016.

The discrimination many Christians complain about and the shift towards religious conservatism by many Egyptian Muslims over the last 50 years have forced hundreds of thousands of Christians to migrate, starting new lives in growing communities in places as far afield as Australia, Canada and the United States.

Here is a look at major attacks against Egypt's Coptic Christians in recent years:

November 2: Masked gunmen riding pickup trucks opened fire on three buses carrying pilgrims to the remote desert monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor south of Cairo, killing 7 and wounding about 20. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.

May 26, 2017: Masked militants riding in three all-terrain cars open fire on a bus carrying pilgrims on their way to the Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor, killing 29 and wounding 22. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

April 2017: Twin attacks by suicide bombers hit churches in the coastal city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta city of Tanta. At least 43 people are killed and scores of worshippers injured in the Palm Sunday attack, which narrowly missed a ceremony presided over by Pope Tawadros II, spiritual leader of Egypt Orthodox Copts, in Alexandria's St. Mark's Cathedral. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.

February 2017: Hundreds of Egyptian Christians flee their homes in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, fearing attacks by ISIS. The group's North Sinai affiliate had killed at least seven Coptic Christians in the restive peninsula in less than a month.

December 2016: A bombing at a chapel adjacent to Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral in Cairo kills 30 people and wounds dozens during Sunday Mass in one of the deadliest attacks carried out against the religious minority in recent memory. ISIS claimed responsibility.

July 2016: Pope Tawadros II says that since 2013 there were 37 sectarian attacks on Christians in Egypt, nearly one incident a month. A Muslim mob stabs to death a 27-year-old Coptic Christian man, Fam Khalaf, in the central city of Minya over a personal feud.

May 2016: A Muslim mob ransacks and torches seven Christian homes in Minya after rumours spread that a Christian man had an affair with a Muslim woman. The elderly mother of the Christian man was stripped naked and dragged through a street by the mob.

New Year's Eve 2011: A bomb explodes in a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria as worshippers leave after a midnight mass, killing more than 20 people.

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