Muslims face increased stop and search

By Vikram Dodd and Alan Travis Hazel Blears, the minister responsible for counter-terrorism, said yesterday that Muslims will have to accept as a “reality” that they will be stopped and searched by the police more often than the rest of the public. Ms Blears told MPs that “there was no getting away from it”, because the terrorist threat came from people “falsely hiding behind Islam”. Her comments, on the day when leading British Muslim groups met to hammer out a strategy on maximising the Islamic vote for the election, provoked immediate condemnation from Islamic leaders. Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: “She is demonising and alienating our community. It is a legitimisation for a backlash and for racists to have an onslaught on our community.” The Home Office minister’s comments come at an awkward time for the Labour government. It is struggling to pass anti-terrorism legislation through parliament and preparing for a general election where the traditionally loyal Muslim vote is threatening to desert the party. Ms Blears was speaking at the Commons home affairs committee inquiry into the impact of anti-terrorist measures on community relations. “If a threat is from a particular place then our action is going to be targeted at that area,” she said, adding: “It means that some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by the Muslim community.” Statistics showed that of the 17 people found guilty of terrorist acts since 9/11 in the UK, only four of the 12 whose ethnic backgrounds were known were Muslim, Mr Shadjareh said. The Muslim Council of Britain was in discussions with the Home Office about what the minister had meant. Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the MCB, said he feared they legitimised anti-Muslim sentiment and warned the minister against scaremongering to drum up support for the new terror laws: “The remarks are thoroughly unhelpful as we’ve seen a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the UK. “It is wholly unacceptable if a government minister is using her office to scaremonger at the expense of our community to ease the passage of legislation designed to curb our civil liberties.” Ms Blears’ comments come after Monday night’s vote over controversial new anti-terrorism powers that could see suspects subject to house arrest. The measures provoked a rebellion that saw the government’s majority reduced to 14, and yesterday the bill reached the House of Lords. Ms Blears also cited new Home Office stop and search figures showing that the rise in the number of Asian people stopped under the Terrorism Act was no longer as sharp as those involving white or black people. Counter-terror stop and searches rose from 21,500 in 2002-03 to nearly 30,000 in 2003-04. Those involving white people rose by 43% from 14,429 to 20,637; those involving black people rose by 55% from 1,745 to 2,704 over the same period; and those involving Asian people rose 22% from 2,989 to 3,668. Ms Blears said the figures may reassure the Muslim community they were not being unfairly targeted but she said it was important for the government to develop a broader conversation with the Islamic community than just talking about the terrorist threat.

German Immigration Law Targets Muslims

German states race to enforce the new immigration law on Muslim immigrants in Germany as if it was especially tailored for them. Days after the law went into effect at the beginning of this year, German states rushed to prepare lists of thousands of Muslim immigrants — whom the German authorities dubbed as suspects — for immediate deportation. In no time, German states have started deporting dozens of the so-called “suspects.” Bavarian Prime Minister Gunter Beckstein, told Der Spiegel magazine earlier in the week that his state has already begun shipping out immigrants under the new law. Beckstein was in the vanguard of officials attacking Muslims, accusing the sizable Turkish community of living in “parallel societies” with their own cultural and social activities. The state of Hessen followed suit deporting ten imams since the beginning of this month. Authorities charged the imams of preaching religious hatred. Other immigrants were also expelled from the state for being involved in “extremist activities.” Last week, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry in Metropolitan Berlin boasted that the new law makes it easy for federal authorities to deport any “suspect.” Under the new immigration law, German authorities are entitled to kick out foreigners, especially Muslim imams, back to their countries of origin if security agencies view them as posing a threat to national security. The measure restricts the deportees’ right to appeal or challenge any expulsion decision. Under the law, immigrants are additionally bound to attend language and culture classes. Pundits believe that the law is quite vague as it falls short of giving a clear definition of “suspects” and the whole thing is based on authorities’ speculations and premonitions. It further gives sweeping powers to anti-Muslim and xenophobic officials as state premiers and interior ministers can use it without having to consult first with the federal government. It seems as if the law regards all imams in the country as suspects until proven otherwise, which undermines earnest Muslim efforts to integrate into German society, IslamOnline.net correspondent says. He adds that the absence of an official body speaking in unison in the name of the Muslim community helped pass the new “draconian” law. Raids The deportations’ drive, which was passionately welcomed by right-wing politicians and media, came in parallel with massive police raids on resident Islamists. Earlier in the month, police stormed 35 homes owned by 24 Arabs, arresting 20 of them. They have been accused of receiving funds from bodies suspected of having links with “terrorist groups”. A German intelligence report has revealed that only one percent of Germany’s Muslim population are members of organizations that pose serious threats to the country’s national security. In 2004, German Muslims had been, in effect, caught in an anti- and pro-Islam battle with anti-Muslim voices speaking louder than ever. Dealing with the Muslim community became the overriding concern of German officials, who jumped on the anti-Islam bandwagon across Europe and came up with plans and ideas on the best way to contain the Muslim community security-wise. All of a sudden, Muslim issues like hijab and integration were deliberately brought to the fore as if Muslims were a thorn in the government’s side, according to IOL correspondent. Though German Minister of Economics and Labor Wolfgang Clement said in June that Turkish investments help create 300,000 new jobs for Germans a year, 80 percent of the Turkish community feel discriminated against, according to a recent study. Islam comes third after Protestant and Catholic Christianity. There are some 3.4 million Muslims in Germany, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. An estimated two thirds of the Muslim community are of Turkish origin.

Melilla: La Comisión Islámica Critica Las Pocas Horas De Clase De Islam

The Islamic Community of Spain (CIE) rejected that Islam be taught in schools “with an exposition similar to the classes of catholicism.” According to the accepted leader of the Muslim community, Malik Ruiz, “the most appropriate system is not to give lectures of one or two hours of Islamic religion each week, since it is not an education subject but a form of life”.

Muslims And Labour Vote

The word “ethnic” is misused in the article below. We talk about metropolitan districts with large “ethnic communities”. The Guardian style guide says: “Neversay ethnic when you mean ethnic minority. It leads to such nonsense as the constituency has a small ethnic population.” Tony Blair’s hopes of patching up relations with the Muslim community have been dealt a fresh blow by a leading Islamic organisation which is urging its members not to vote Labour at next week’s European elections.

American Muslims Want “Role In Politics”

Even the most religiously traditional Muslims believe they should participate in American politics, according to a newly released study of one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. The survey of Detroit-area Muslims is the latest to show that the isolationism that once pervaded the immigrant Muslim community is dissipating. Muslims ranked protecting their civil rights as a top public policy issue, according to the study.

UK Muslims split over mosque letter

By Arthur Neslen in London A controversial letter sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain to more than 1000 mosques has split the country’s Muslim community, with some communal leaders saying it will increase Islamophobia. The letter urges congregations to report any suspicions they might have about other worshippers to the police. “Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem,” it says. “We therefore urge you to observe the utmost vigilance against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity.” The MCB’s appeal to the UK’s two million Muslims will be made through imams, chairmen and secretaries of mosques. Hundreds of thousands of booklets will also be sent out. But Masoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Aljazeera.net that the letter’s assumptions are false. “As Muslims, we need to challenge stereotyping and injustices, rather than becoming party to them,” he said. “I’m not questioning the MCB’s intentions but it seems that they are reacting without thinking. “I know that they have been put under a lot of pressure but this sort of action is pointless, reactionary and actually creates the very Islamophobia that we are trying to fight. I can’t put it more strongly than that.” Number of arrests Iqbal Sacranie, the director of the Muslim Council of Britain, dismissed the charge as “utterly nonsensical”. “The only response some elements have to a positive and constructive initiative is to try to undermine it,” he told Aljazeera.net. “How can this letter be Islamophobic? “It is facing the reality that there are a large number of arrests taking place in the community. Although, by the grace of God, most are released without charge, some are convicted. One Muslim conviction is one too many.” In fact there have been two Muslim convictions for terrorism offences since the September 11 attacks. But there have also been more than 500 arrests and a dramatic shift in police “stop and search” policies. Last year, police made 32,100 searches under the Terrorism Act, an increase of 30,000 on the figure for 2000. Community leaders say that the vast majority of those targeted have been young Muslims. Not unexpected For Abd al-Bari Atwan, the influential editor of the al-Quds newspaper, the MCB’s decision was not unexpected. “The Muslim community in Britain is facing a critical time because the media have launched a hate campaign against them since the Madrid bombings,” he told Aljazeera.net. “Every Muslim is now a suspect and everyone is being watched by the police and intelligence services in one way or another.” The controversy over the MCB letter closely followed the arrest of eight British Muslims on Monday, for their part in an alleged al-Qaida bomb plot. On Wednesday a judge granted police a further three days to question the men. Police said that half a ton of ammonium nitrate, a fertiliser?that can be used to make explosives, was recovered during the operation. Dr Sacranie denied that the MCB’s letter was a panic response to subsequent media headlines such as the Daily Telegraph’s “Islamic bomb attack foiled” which proved offensive to so many in the Muslim community. “This initiative is part of our long-term action plan,” he said. “We feel the pressure day in and day out to do something for the community and for the country.” “To talk about ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a contradiction in terms, as Islam is a religion of humanity that utterly and totally condemns acts of violence and terrorism. Yet we are the only community that is being linked with terrorists.” But he singled out extremist groups such as al-Muhajiroun, for targeting alienated Muslim youths. “Within our community, there are elements who try to create hatred against people of other faiths,” he said. “We are telling the youth we share their concerns about the atrocities being committed in Palestine but it is unacceptable to use violent means in the UK.” ‘No platform’ Shortly after the letter was released, the UK’s National Union of Students moved to “no platform” or ban al-Muhajiroun, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and Hizb al-Tahrir from speaking at any campus in the country. The three groups have been associated with anti-Semitic propaganda. But Atwan said al-Muhajiroun were “a very small group and a tabloid creation,” while Usama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain described them as “an empty drum, they make a lot of noise, but in reality there is nothing much happening there.” Saeed told Aljazeera.net that he did not know whether the MCB letter would have a positive effect on the press hysteria. “There has to be vigilance in the community,” he said, “But we also have to have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else.” “I have never seen any terrorists recruiting or organising in mosques. If someone told me to weed these people out, I wouldn’t know where to start. What is needed is a debate about the root cause of terrorism, which is our country’s foreign policy.” The row over the letter, he added, was being taken out of context by the press. One story the British media did not report the week before the alleged al-Qaida bomb ring was smashed, was cited by many Muslim leaders as an example of the animus they are now facing. A 17-year-old Muslim girl was kidnapped in Ilford, East London by a Christian fundamentalist who slashed a crucifix into her upper arms and side and tried to force her to recite the holy trinity. When she refused, he repeatedly told her that “Christianity is the right religion” and slashed her every time he did so. However, the tabloids did at least turn their attention to Ilford the following week. It was the home town of one of the alleged al-Qaida bombers.

Towards A British Islam

Several details about the eight young men arrested in raids across the home counties this week stir much thought. They are all British born. They do not live in areas of high deprivation, but in places like Crawley, Ilford and Slough. Some have young families. None of them fits the conventional profile of Islamist terrorists as alienated, isolated immigrants. If this is suburban Islamism, it poses difficult questions about Britain’s record in integrating the Muslim community and in fostering a secure, strong sense of a British Islamic identity. There are many in the Muslim community whose warnings, through the early 1990s, of a radicalised generation fell on deaf ears. They would argue that Britain has not so much failed to integrate Muslims, as failed even to try. As they saw the traditional authority structures of their community undermined in the urban west, they saw the dangers of a disorientated youth, vulnerable both to drugs and Islamism. Organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain at the interface of state and Islam struggled to establish and maintain their credibility with both. The state’s apparatus of multi-culturalism, with its emphasis on ethnicity rather than religious identity, served Muslim needs ill, they claimed. They would point to a catalogue of neglect towards the Muslim community, evident in high unemployment and high educational underachievement, particularly among Pakistani and Bangladeshi males. They argue that the response to setting up Muslim schools was too slow, and that boys’ vital religious instruction in mosques on Saturdays has remained in the cultural clutches of religious authorities back in Pakistan or Bangladesh. The resources were inadequate to promote a vibrant Islam of which these British youngsters could be proud. The crucial ingredient which radicalises this kind of community disaffection into some individuals undertaking acts of extreme violence is the international context. It began with the slow international response in Bosnia, but now spans the globe from Chechnya and Palestine to France where the sisters cannot wear the hijab. The perception everywhere is that the proud, expansionary faith of Islam is under attack. That makes a faith in which the ummah (international community of believers) is central and, when combined with modern mass communications, quite literally explosive. Worryingly, this international context – in particular the war on Iraq – is now sapping the will of the British Muslim community to integrate, as a recent Guardian-ICM poll found. Britain faces a pressing task of mapping an effective strategy of engagement with Islam, one that spans both the global and local contexts. It is about when and why we embark on wars with Muslim nations; but it is also about the kinds of schools and estates which are built and the methods used by police against Muslims. This may take the British state into new territory – funding the training of imams, supporting mosques which run Arabic and scripture classes – and it is vital to listen to those who have been closest to the development of the Islamist threat over the last two decades. This includes a fundamental re-examination of our understanding of integration that does not simply entail minorities conforming to a British prescription; it challenges secular liberalism to offer more than polite distaste. It is helpful, given the current sense of fear, to bear in mind a useful precedent. In 1795, in the midst of war with France, Britain began to fund the Catholic Maynooth seminary in Ireland to stop students going to France to be trained. The example may seem arcane, but at the time it was contrary to all the principles of a protestant state. National emergency dictated that piece of British pragmatism – and it may do so again.

Leaders Make Peace Plea To Imams

By Stephen Bates Mosques UK council calls for ‘Correct guidance’ Muslim community leaders yesterday issued their strongest assertion of opposition to terrorism, calling on mosques to issue “correct Islamic guidance” to followers, in an attempt to head off criticisms that they have failed to condemn violence sufficiently firmly in the past. A two-page statement was sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain, representing 400 organisations, calling on imams to reinforce the message of peace at Friday’s prayer meetings at 1,000 mosques across the country.

Crackdown By Police Is ‘Driving Muslims To Extremists’

Heavy handed anti-terrorist policing is driving British Muslims into the hands of al-Qa’ida and other Islamic extremist groups, David Blunkett and Scotland Yard have been warned. The Muslim community is increasingly alarmed at the number of people being arrested for suspected anti-terrorist offences, but released without charge. Extremists, such as the supporters of al-Qa’ida and al-Muhajiroun, a radical Muslim organisation, are attempting to exploit this unrest and recruit new members in Britain, the Home Secretary and the police have been told. The warning by Muslim leaders follows the arrest of 537 people by the Metropolitan Police under anti-terrorist legislation since the 11 September attacks in 2001. Of those detained, 94 have been charged with terrorist-related offences and six have been convicted.