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.
By Emily Pennink Muslims are being urged to use their votes in the local and European elections to stop the threat from the far right, it was reported today. The Muslim Council of Britain has penned an open letter warning of BNP success in the event of a low turnout on June 10, the BBC says. The group claims a party political broadcast by the BNP last week was threatening and anti-Muslim, although the BNP insists it is not a threat to the Muslim community. The council said the BNP would need less than 10% of the vote to win a seat on the Greater London Authority or in the European Parliament – successes which would entitle it to public funding. “The rise of the far-right parties poses a dangerous threat to our communities,” the letter says.
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.
WASHINGTON, April 28 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – A majority of Arab Americans in four battleground states would vote for democratic candidate John Kerry if presidential elections were held Thursday, April 29, a poll unveiled. The poll, conducted by the Washington-based Arab American Institute, found that 49 percent of all Arab-American voters in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – all swing states in the November election – would vote for Kerry, while 30 percent would vote for incumbent Republican President George W. Bush. However, with Ralph Nader – an American of Lebanese descent – in the mix, Kerry’s support would slip to 45 percent, and Bush’s to 28 percent, while the independent contender would get 14 percent of the vote. The poll is based on interviews with 503 Arab-American voters in the four states and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.
PARIS: The French Senate approved by a large majority a bill banning hijab and other religious insignia in state schools on Wednesday, March 3. The proposal was adopted with 276 in favor and 20 against, despite the recent mass protests by the five-million-estimated Muslims and human rights at home and the appeal of some countries against the ban, BBC reported. French President Jacques Chirac has 15 days to sign into law the bill – adopted by the lower house last month by overwhelming majority, according to the BBC. Chirac said in a televised speech in December 2003 that the “Islamic veil” whatever name we give it – the kappa and a cross that is of plainly excessive dimensions” have no place in the precincts of state schools. ‘Powerful Signal’ French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin told senators before the vote that the law did not aim to discriminate against religions but to ”send a powerful and quick signal”. Raffarin insisted the law was needed to contain the spread of what he called ”Muslim fundamentalism” and ensure that the principle of secularism on which France is based remains intact.
Foreigners living in Belgium have been given the right to vote in the country’s local elections, whatever their nationality. The Belgian Parliament’s approval of the new voting law, marks the end of a long and often bitter debate that once again saw the country divided along linguistic lines. The country’s French speaking political parties carried the vote. Only one party from Dutch-speaking Flanders – the minority Flemish Socialist Party (SP.A) – voted in favour of the planned new rules. It is estimated that around 120 000 people are to contribute from the new regulations.