10 April 2013
Mohammad Rizwan and Bahader Ali, two Birmingham gang members, pleaded guilty to plotting and preparing for acts of terrorism at Woolwich Crown Court on 10 April. Both men are from Sparkbrook, Birmingham, and planned to carry out an attack in Birmingham, the second most populated city in Britain. Police say that the gang’s plot to detonate eight rucksack bombs in crowded places would have been larger than the 7/7 bombings. In total, eleven gang members were arrested and have been either brought up on charges or convicted of planning terrorist activities and are due to be sentenced later this month. The men face life in prison.
30 September 2010
A secret police operation to place thousands of Muslims living in Birmingham under permanent surveillance was implemented with virtually no consultation, oversight or regard for the law, a report found today.
Project Champion was abandoned in June after an investigation by the Guardian revealed police had misled residents into believing that hundreds of counter-terrorism cameras installed in streets around Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.
In fact, the £3m project was being run from the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit with the consent of security officials at the Home Office and MI5.
The network of CCTV and automatic number plate reading (ANPR) cameras, which were weeks away from being switched on, were intended to monitor people entering and leaving the predominantly Muslim suburbs.
Report: “Review of Project Champion”
The introduction of a network of more than 200 CCTV cameras giving blanket coverage of two predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham is to be postponed after furious protests.
Muslim, civil rights and community groups were enraged after it emerged earlier this month that the cameras were not primarily for crime prevention and detection, but were paid for by the police for anti-terrorism surveillance. It led to accusations that, because of the concentration of Muslim families in the Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook districts of the city, the police had stigmatised the area as a terrorist ghetto.
The Safer Birmingham Partnership, the joint city council/police organisation that installed the cameras, backed down yesterday after mounting protests and a parliamentary motion condemning the move, and announced that the 218 cameras would not be switched on in August as planned.
Counterterrorism police have targeted hundreds of surveillance cameras on two Muslim areas of Birmingham, enabling them to track the precise movements of people entering and leaving the neighbourhoods.
The project has principally been sold to locals as an attempt to combat antisocial behaviour, vehicle crime and drug dealing in the area. But the cameras have been paid for by a £3m grant from a government fund, the Terrorism and Allied Matters Fund, which is administered by the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The funding arrangement was not made clear to the handful of councillors who were briefed that the cameras would appear in their area. Instead, they were told only that the money had come from the Home Office. “I raised my concern then: is this really about spying?” said Salma Yaqoob, a member of the Respect party and councillor for Sparkbrook.
Next week’s election promises a swathe of new faces in the House of Commons. Not only are we witnessing the largest number of MPs to retire in 60 years but, with a record number of Asian women also standing, Britain could have its first female Muslim MP.
This breakthrough moment in politics has already happened for Muslim men with Mohammad Sarwar voted in Glasgow Central in 1997. Khalid Mahmood was the first in England when he won the Birmingham Perry Barr seat in 2001 and the race to be among the first female Muslim MPs could also be played out in the second city.
Salma Yaqoob, according to one newspaper the most prominent Muslim woman in British politics, is the Respect Party prospective parliamentary candidate for the Birmingham Hall Green constituency. Labour’s Shabana Mahmood is fighting Clare Short’s seat in Ladywood along with Nusrat Ghani, who is standing for the Conservatives.
Sparkbrook – within the Hall Green constituency – and Small Heath now broken up between different wards – has the largest percentage of Muslim voters of any UK constituency at 48.8%, according to the 2001 census.