Relations between the Muslim community and Greater Manchester Police are being strained after officers infiltrated mosques. Some Islamic groups have told the BBC Asian Network that they are angry about undercover tactics used in recent counter terror operations.
The North West Counter Terrorism Unit carried out an investigation which involved officers posing as Muslims. They attended prayer meetings and services at a dozen unnamed mosques in Manchester after they befriended four Muslim men for more than a year. Three of the men, Munir Farooqi, 54, Israr Malik, 24, and Matthew Newton, 29, were convicted of terrorism charges in September. Another man was acquitted.
Yasmin Dar, a member of the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Mosques and Community Forum, said: “It’s alarming, you’ve got one community that is being targeted. I’ve not heard of any cases of undercover officers going into churches or synagogues, so why a particular faith? Relations with the police have hit rock bottom. It’s created a lot of mistrust with the police.”
Another Forum member Rabnawaz Akbar said: “Mosques are a special place for Muslims and when people were told that this had happened they just felt betrayed. It’s left a scar on the good relations that had been built over the years.”
Ms Dar said this issue, coupled with the police decision to apply to confiscate the home where Farooqi’s family live led to all 15 members of the forum walking out of a meeting with the police earlier this month.
The Muslim Safety Forum (MSF) represents more than 30 Islamic organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Parliament, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and mosques.
It offers advice to the Metropolitan Police and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on Islamic issues. Its counter terrorism spokesman Shamiul Jorder argues Muslims are already taking the lead in the fight against extremism. “We’ve seen it through Finsbury Park Mosque – it was the Muslims who took out Abu Hamza.”
He says the authorities need the support of the Muslim community in order to counter terrorist activity effectively. “The police haven’t managed to foster positive relationships with the Muslim community, otherwise they could use these channels to get the information they need. This kind of infiltration is not the way forward.”