Muslims can expect the police to target them, minister says
By Richard Ford and Stewart Tendler
BRITAIN’S Counter-Terrorism Minister warned the Muslim community last night that it must face the reality of being targeted by the police because of the threat from an extreme form of Islam.
Hazel Blears provoked anger from Muslim leaders and the National Black Police Association (NPBA) for her “intemperate” comments. They said her statements could only exacerbate feelings among law-abiding Muslims that they were being unfairly targeted by police and intelligence services.
Ms Blears’s comments appear to conflict with the commitment by the police not to target suspects because of their race, a key recommendation of the 1999 inquiry by Sir William Macpherson into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager.
She said yesterday that Britain’s 1.5 million Muslims should accept as a reality that people of Islamic appearance are more likely to be stopped and searched.
“At the moment the threat is more likely to come from those associated with a most extreme form of Islam or who are falsely hiding behind Islam,” she told MPs.
“It means that some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by people in the Muslim community. There is no getting away from the fact.”
Ms Blears made her comments when she gave evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into terrorism and the effects that counter-terrorism measures have on community relations.
She said later that because the current threat came from people masquerading as Islamists, police would have that in mind when using stop-and-search powers. “That is the reality. I do not think it should go unsaid.”
The latest figures show a 43 per cent increase in stops and searches of white people between 2002-03 and 2003-04, 55 per cent for black people and 22 per cent for Asians.
The number of white people stopped and searched rose from 14,400 to 20,637, blacks from 1,740 to 2,704 and Asians from 2,989 to 3,668.
The Muslim Council of Britain said that Ms Blears’s remarks could be misconstrued.Iqbal Sacranie, the council’s secretary-general, said: “The idea that the police are disproportionately targeting the community, such a statement can only exacerbate feelings.”
He said that Muslims were already concerned that many were stopped and searched, but few were then charged.
Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the leader of the Muslim Parliament, said: “Has she joined the BNP? You don’t expect a minister, a responsible person, to make these remarks.”
Ray Powell, president of the NBPA, accused Ms Blears, who is also Police Minister, of using “intemperate and inconsiderate language”.
He said that the Government should expect a degree of backlash from Muslims and attempts to get communities to help to combat terrorism could be damaged.
“I think it is wrong of her to say they should accept it is used disproportionately. That comment would not be helpful and does not instil confidence within the Muslim community,” he said.
Over at Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer hails Blears’ comments as an example of “anti-dhimmitude in Britain”.