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Birmingham raids & racism in Britain

rob | 10.02.2007 20:32 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Terror War | Birmingham | World

here is a selection of news items on last week's 'terror raid' in Birmingham and two relevant articles on racism

1) excerpt from 'Two released without charge after Birmingham anti-terror raid'

2) Only in a democracy can you cry 'police state'

3) excerpt from 'Muslim unrest as police carry out new raids'

4) Irish show muslims solidarity

5) Muslims are now getting the same treatment Jews had a century ago

6) from the archives: Are Muslims becoming the new Irish?


excerpt from 'Two released without charge after Birmingham anti-terror raid'

Times Online, 7 February 2007

The two men released this morning after being held in Birmingham on
terror charges claim that police told them nothing about any alleged
plot to kidnap or behead a British Muslim soldier.

In a statement issued through their solicitor, Gareth Peirce, they
added that they are "convinced" that the other seven men being held by
police are innocent and should be released straight away.

"They have left the police station without any better understanding of
why they were there than when they first arrived seven days ago," Ms
Peirce said.

"Not a word was ever mentioned to either of them about a plot to
kidnap or the grisly suggestion of a beheading or even of a soldier at
all. Both have been met with a consistent refusal over seven days for
any explanation for their arrest. They are convinced that others in
the police station must be as innocent as they and urge that they also
be swiftly released."


Only in a democracy can you cry 'police state'

leading article, Daily Telegraph, 9 February 2007

Distressing though it must have been for Abu Bakr to have been
arrested and questioned in connection with an alleged terrorist kidnap
plot, only to be released without charge a week later, it hardly
warranted his intemperate reaction. "It's a police state for Muslims,"
he opined. The fact that he had been released from custody and was
able to make his preposterous statement on national television rather
argues the opposite.

Abu Bakr's paranoia (fuelled, of course, by the swarms of human-rights
activists these cases inevitably attract) got short shrift from both
Tony Blair and David Cameron yesterday. The two party leaders robustly
asserted that his treatment actually showed the law working as it
should in a liberal democracy. What we were, in fact, witnessing from
Mr Bakr was another minor excrescence of the sense of victimhood that
comes so readily to many Muslims because of the community isolation
multiculturalism has malignly engendered.

The row also exposes the wider problem of policing the Muslim
community during anti-terror inquiries. The Forest Gate arrests last
summer that resulted in no charges being brought left the police
facing inevitable (and quite specious) claims that they were pursuing
some sort of vendetta against the Muslim community. In last week's
West Midlands sweep the police sought to avoid such accusations by
leafleting local Muslims to explain what they were doing. This, in
turn, generates justifiable irritation in non-Muslim communities,
which point out, with some justice, that they do not get placatory
leaflet drops when some of their own have their collars felt.

In fact, the police deserve our sympathy for they have scant choice in
the matter. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 imposes a
statutory obligation on the police (and indeed all other public
bodies) to take active steps to promote racial equality. The
legislation was, of course, drafted in response to the Macpherson
inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence, which concluded that the
Metropolitan Police was "institutionally racist".

This legal requirement means the police are being pulled in opposite
directions when investigating terrorist plots. Whether Muslims like it
or not, these tend to be focused on their community because Islamic
fundamentalism is the threat we face. So the police are obliged by the
law to do everything in their power not to offend Muslim sensibilities
– while being expected by the whole community to catch terrorists
before they can act. This places them in a hopeless double bind that
no law-enforcement agency should be asked to tolerate.


excerpt from 'Muslim unrest as police carry out new raids'

by Nick Britten and Nigel Bunyan, Daily Telegraph, 4 February 2007

Yesterday, Dr Mohammed Naseem, the chairman of Birmingham Central
mosque and one of the city's most senior Muslims, said members of his
faith were being persecuted by the Government and compared the current
political climate to Nazi Germany.

Mr Naseem, who will address a public rally this afternoon, used Friday
prayers to accuse Tony Blair of "persecuting" Muslims to justify
counter-terrorist legislation.

He said: "They have invented this perception of a threat. To justify
that, they have to maintain incidents to prove something is going on.
There is dismay and people feel they are being persecuted unjustly.

"There is no reason for that. If there is a reason, the process should
be open and for everybody to see what is happening."

He said Muslims were being used to set up a "police state" and
"dictatorship", adding: "They need some excuse to seize that control
and they are using Muslims for that. Just look what happened in
Germany — Hitler was an elected leader. He started to persecute Jews
and the same is happening to Muslims today. We are being used as a
political pawn. I am seeing this as the view held by non-Muslims.


Irish show muslims solidarity

Support for Asian community after Midlands police terror raids. 'We
know what it's like'

by Frank Murphy, The Irish World, 7 February 2007

Irish community leaders in Britain have spoken out in support of
Muslim immigrants in the wake of police raids in Birmingham that have
seen nine men arrested in connection with an alleged terror plot.

Dr Mary Tilki, chair of the Federation of Irish Societies, told an
audience at a regional FIS meeting in Liverpool at the weekend that
she was concerned at the series of arrests as well as police raids
last year in the East End of London.

She said: "I am particularly saddened by the abuse and hostility
targeted at members of the Asian community.

"We have been there as a community and we know what it is like. I
would like to think that Irish organisations and Irish people can
support the Asian/Muslim community".

Dr Tilki said since the terrorist bomb atrocities in the city it had
taken more than 30 years for Irish people in Birmingham to feel safe
in expressing their Irishness.

She continued: "The Asians are no different and like us the vast
majority abhor any link with terrorism".

The FIS chair said that the Prevention of Terrorism Act had made
legitimate the labelling of all Irish people as terrorists.

She said: "Homes were raided; people were persistently stopped and
searched but the level of conviction was low".

And she warned: "The police and security services have a difficult job
to do; their intelligence is arguably more sophisticated.

"But they do not appear to have learned lessons from the miscarriages
of justice against Irish people".


Muslims are now getting the same treatment Jews had a century ago

Today's anti-Muslim racism uncannily echoes earlier anti-semitism -
both minorities abused as an alien security threat

Maleiha Malik, The Guardian, February 2, 2007

Migrants fleeing persecution and poverty settled with their children
in the East End of London. As believers in one God they were devoted
to their holy book, which contained strict religious laws, harsh
penalties and gender inequality. Some of them established separate
religious courts. The men wore dark clothes and had long beards; some
women covered their hair. A royal commission warned of the grave
dangers of self-segregation. Politicians said different religious
dress was a sign of separation. Some migrants were members of
extremist political groups. Others actively organised to overthrow the
established western political order. Campaigners against the migrants
carefully framed their arguments as objections to "alien extremists"
and not to a race or religion. A British cabinet minister said we were
facing a clash about civilisation: this was about values; a battle
between progress and "arrested development".

All this happened a hundred years ago to Jewish migrants seeking
asylum in Britain. The political movements with which they were
closely associated were anarchism and later Bolshevism. As in the case
of contemporary political violence, or even the radical Islamism
supported by a minority of British Muslims, anarchism and Bolshevism
only commanded minority support among the Jewish community. But shared
countries of origin and a common ethnic and religious background were
enough to create a racialised discourse whenever there were anarchist
outrages in London in the early 20th century.

Most anarchists were peaceful, but a few resorted to violent attacks
such as the bombing of Greenwich Observatory in 1894 - described at
the time as an "international terrorist outrage". Anarchist violence
was an international phenomenon. In Europe it claimed hundreds of
lives, including those of several heads of government, and resulted in
anti- terrorism laws. In the siege of Sidney Street in London in 1911,
police and troops confronted east European Jewish anarchists. This
violent confrontation in the heart of London created a racialised
moral panic in which the whole Jewish community was stigmatised. It
was claimed that London was "seething" with violent aliens, and the
British establishment was said to be "in a state of denial". East End
Jews were said to be "alienated", not "integrated", and a "threat to
our security" a long time before anyone dreamed up the phrase

Today the Middle East is the focus of a challenge to American
political and economic hegemony, which is being presented as a
"civilisational conflict with Islam". Nearly a century ago, the
Russian revolution sent shockwaves through western states and
financial markets. Anti-semites argued that Jewish involvement in
revolutionary politics was part of a conspiracy by "the homeless
wandering Jew" to replace European states with their "Hebrew nation".
Winston Churchill, as secretary of state for war in 1920, wrote an
article in the Illustrated Sunday Herald claiming there were three
categories of Jews - good, bad and indifferent - and arguing that they
were part of a "worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation
and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested

Jews were the first non-Christian, yet monotheistic, religious
minority in Britain. They are also one of its earliest "racialised"
people. Despite important differences, the treatment of British Jews
provides an illuminating comparison with contemporary anti-Muslim
racism. There are recurring patterns in British society that racialise
Jews and Muslims, which we need to understand if we are to develop an
effective strategy for national security.

Jews and now Muslims have been and are the targets of cultural racism:
differences arising from their religious culture are pathologised and
systematically excluded from definitions of "being British". Both
anti-semitism and anti-Muslim racism focus on belief in religious law
to construct Jews and Muslims as a threat to the nation. Pnina
Werbner, professor of social anthropology at Keele University, argues
that Jews are predominantly racialised as an assimilated threat to
national interests emerging at moments of crisis. Muslims are now
being represented as a different kind of "folk devil" - a social group
that is openly and aggressively trying to impose its religion on
national culture. This partially explains the recent concerns about
multiculturalism. "Anti-fundamentalist images provide racists with a
legitimising discourse against Muslims," as Werbner puts it, which is
used by "intellectual elites as well as 'real' violent racists".

The Jewish-Muslim comparison reveals another recurring pattern in
recent British history: the rapid collapse of security fears
associated with a religious minority into a racialised discourse of
"civilisation versus barbarism". The American philosopher William
Connolly predicted after September 11 that "the terrorism of al-Qaida,
in turn, generates new fears and hostilities. The McCarthyism of our
day will connect internal state security to an exclusionary version of
the Judeo-Christian tradition".

The ease with which security fears can generate "moral panics and folk
devils" was recently highlighted at a conference organised by London
mayor Ken Livingstone to debate the neoconservatives' insistence that
we now face a new clash of civilisation versus barbarism. In London's
past, the East End British Brothers' League carefully framed its
objections using terms such as aliens, anarchists and Bolsheviks
rather than Jews. At last month's conference, many cheered as if at a
rally, as these new advocates of "civilisational conflict" worked hard
to keep separate their categories of barbarian and civilised. They
cited Ayaan Hirsi Ali as their exemplar of a "good Muslim", thus
clarifying the "civilisation" they are encouraging Muslims to emulate.
Hirsi Ali, whose research is funded by the neo-conservative American
Enterprise Institute, argues that the west should launch a war against
Iran - with the prospect of the deaths of thousands more innocents -
as it earlier agitated for war on Iraq.

The neocons want us to treat domestic security like the war against
fascism. This manipulation of Europe's memory of its struggle against
nazism mirrors the propaganda of some Muslims - the July 7 bombers
who, citing Iraq, insisted that they were martyrs in a holy war; and
those who portray domestic anti-terrorism policy as a new western
crusade against 1 billion Muslims. The London mayor's refusal to lapse
into such "war talk" is one factor that has so far helped to prevent
fear of domestic terrorism from collapsing into a racialised conflict
of civilisations in the heart of diverse London. This is not just
about foreign neocon wars, or politically correct anti-racism, or
multiculturalism - or even the defence of the human rights of British
citizens who are Muslims. It is about the security of all British
citizens. As Ken Macdonald, director of public prosecutions, warned
last week, if we want to safeguard our security we must abandon
delusions that we are fighting wars, and deal with terrorism in the
context of criminal justice. With more terror arrests inevitable, and
the prospect of new anti-terrorism legislation any day, the need to
grasp what is really going on could not be more urgent.

· Maleiha Malik is a lecturer in law at King's College London.

· This is an edited version of lectures prepared for presentation at
the Clash of Civilisations conference in London on January 20 and at
Finchley Progressive Synagogue


from the archives: Are Muslims becoming the new Irish?

by Paul Donovan, The Muslim News, Issue 181, Friday 28 May 2004

The Muslim community appear to rapidly be replacing Irish as the
suspect community in Britain.

The media choreography of the recent arrests of eight men reported as
being British of Pakistani descent bore all the hallmarks of the way
anti-terror operations were handled during the conflict in Northern
Ireland. The broadcast media were tipped off and obediently followed
every police and intelligence service direction given. Despite the
historical precedent of miscarriages of justice each individual
arrested was immediately considered guilty by virtue of being a

If the eight individuals are released in a few weeks time there will
be no banner headlines leading the television news or across newspaper
front pages. Yet on the record so far the majority of people picked up
are being released without charge.
Over the past few months hundreds of suspects - including many of
North African or Middle Eastern origin - have been arrested but most
have been released without charge.

Four men were arrested in Sheffield earlier in March. Another four men
were arrested in early December after raids in the West Midlands,
Luton and Birmingham, and in November police arrested a number of
suspects following raids in Manchester, Gloucester and Birmingham.

Last September, eleven men were arrested under the anti-terror laws in
another wave of raids in London and Manchester following dawn raids,
and in one of the most controversial operations, seven people were
detained after 150 police stormed the Finsbury Park mosque in north
London in January 2003. Of 500 arrests of Muslims between September
11, 2001, and December 2003, only 77 resulted in charges, and two in

Muslims have also increasingly become the victims of stop and search
operations. Home Office figures show that in 2002-03 there were 32,100
searches overall under the Terrorism Act, 21,900 up on the previous
year and 30,000 more than in 1999-2000. Metropolitan Police figures
show an increase in the number of Asians, who are mainly Muslim being
stopped. From April 2000-01 it was 9.9 per cent; 2001-02 11.8 per
cent; 2002-03 12.2 per cent; and 2003-04 11.7 per cent so far.

Muslim people are claiming they have been pulled over for questioning
at airports or ferry terminals, and that they have been picked on for
no apparent reason other than their ethnic origin. Remember the
millions of Irish people stopped over the years on such a basis under
the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Then there is the constant threat of the 13 people being detained
indefinitely in British prisons under the Anti Terrorism Crime and
Security Act 2001. These detentions remain as a permanent reminder to
foreign nationals in the country as to what could happen to them if
they step out of line. The effort of the Home Secretary to extend the
powers to British nationals is no doubt intended as another move to
ratchet up the pressure on the Muslim population.

The Muslims are being seen as the new Irish in that they are viewed as
the new suspect community. When the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA)
was brought in following the Birmingham and Guildford pub bombings in
1974, the Irish became a suspect community. Millions were stopped at
ports and airports. Houses were raided and people detained for
anything from a few hours to seven days. Most were then released
without charge - as is happening now with the Muslims - but the
message was clear don't get involved in the politics of Northern
Ireland. The fact that you are Irish and in this country means you are
automatically suspect.

Little has changed. Of 7,052 detained under the PTA between November
29, 1974, and December 31, 1991, 6,097 (86 per cent) were released
without charge. In 1985, then Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, clarified
the point of such an exercise. "What the figures do not tell you is
how much information was obtained not only about the people concerned
but others, and how many threats were averted as a result of obtaining
information from those detained. The object of the exercise is not
just to secure convictions but to secure information," said Brittan.

The miscarriages of justice involving the Birmingham Six, Judith Ward,
the Guildford Four and the Maguires proved the racism of the policing
and intelligence operations. The police, intelligence services and
their bosses in Government were quite happy to see innocent Irish
people remain in prison for long periods of time. The effect of the
operation of the PTA and the miscarriages of justice was to make Irish
recall what they were doing and where they were at the time of a
bombing. In Liverpool many Irish went absent from work the day after a
bombing atrocity for fear of reprisals.

The PTA and miscarriages of justice had a salutary effect on the Irish
resulting in it effectively retreating into the community. The Irish
clubs developed as a network of havens where people could go and mix
with their own. On the political front the Irish largely retreated
from the scene. Despite being the largest ethnic minority in Britain,
the community certainly didn't pull its weight on the political scene.
It has only been with the advent of the Northern Ireland peace process
and an end to the bombing that the Irish have been able to emerge and
start to assert themselves fully both in a political and cultural
sense in Britain.

At present the signs are there that the Muslim community are all set
to follow the exodus of the Irish Catholics into the ghettos. Multi
faith organisations operating at community level are already feeling
the tension as communities that perceive themselves as under attack
withdraw into themselves where they feel safe. This trend if it
continues will not be healthy for racial harmony in the UK.

From the point of view of safety from terrorism, the withdrawal of a
community back in on itself is unhealthy. For the few terrorists
around who may be plotting bomb outrages there is likely to be far
more opportunity to hide. The feeling of a community under threat from
the rest of the society will also foster sympathy for such individuals
and their aims. The Government and police have gone to some lengths
since 9/11 to reassure the Muslim and other ethnic minority
communities that they are not the target. However, the raids,
surveillance and attempts to employ informers is telling those
communities something completely different on the ground.

In attempting to counter terrorism there is every danger that the
present approach will create a race war. Communities that have lived
side by side and contributed to British society for years are suddenly
beginning to feel like outcasts. At present many just feel frightened
and are retreating in on themselves. In time this fright will turn to
anger which will not only help the terrorists but in the end lead to a
sectarian society divided on race and religious lines. Is that what we
want in 21st century Britain?



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