MPs fear police terror raid will hit community relations

MPs fear police terror raid will hit community relations

By Nigel Morris and Arifa Akbar

Independent, 8 June 2006

Police and the intelligence services have been warned by Muslim leaders and MPs that the Forest Gate raids have had a damaging effect on community relations in the fight against terrorism.

As detectives were granted more time to question two men arrested in east London last week, supporters of a drive against Islamophobia condemned the operation.

Ghayasuddin Siddique, leader of the Muslim parliament, said: “It has been an absolute disaster, it’s shameful… Police and the intelligence services have lost all credibility.”

Dominic Grieve, the Conservative home affairs spokesman, said: “I don’t think you can minimise the adverse impact of events like those of the last week. If somebody has their door kicked down at four in the morning it sends out a very negative impression about the nature of our society.”

He said the raids may prove to have been justified, but if they turned out to be mistaken it would make Muslims feel “confronted and embattled” .

Sadiq Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting, said the police needed to ” reflect on the downside of their activities”. He said: “There’s a concern about the willingness of the community to volunteer information [to the police] if their neighbour, someone down the road, their son has been treated unfairly.”

They were speaking in Westminster at the launch of a commission on ways to combat Islamophobia.

Its chairman, Richard Stone, said: “Police and politicians need to show a bit more sensitivity.”

Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, and Abul Koyair, 20, have been held over an alleged terror plot since the raid on Friday. Mr Kahar was shot in the shoulder during the raid. The men deny the allegations.

The Newham Monitoring Project (NMP), which is supporting the families affected by the police cordon around Lansdown Road, said a meeting of community elders had taken place on Tuesday after reports of some “rough treatment” of residents at the hands of police officers.

“At this stage, we are getting reports about residents living under the police presence who have allegedly faced some harassment from police,” a spokeswoman for the NMP said.

She said the claims were being investigated by the NMP before the possibility of lodging a formal complaints with the Metropolitan Police force.

Meanwhile, a demonstration organised by the anti-Islamophobic campaign group, Stop Political Terror, and backed by the Muslim Association of Britain and the Respect Party in Newham, is set to take place outside Forest Gate police station to protest against the raid.

A Respect Party spokesman said: “The protest is about the way in which the arrests were carried out, the fact that these people are being held without charge and that one man was shot during the arrests.”

The Muslim Council of Britain believed the police cordons could be lifted on Friday. Dr Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general, said: “We have been speaking to senior officers who hope restrictions will be lifted by Friday.”

Dr Abdullah reinforced the message to the community to be patient until investigations were complete. “The message should be ‘let the investigation take its course to the logical conclusion’, and while that happens, we maintain the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.”