In the first of a series of regular meetings which were agreed following the meeting between the Muslim Council of Britain and the Home Secretary last December, representatives from the MCB on 22 January met with Home Office officials representing the counter-terrorism, ports policing, faith and race equality policy units. The delegation raised concerns over how anti-terrorist measures were being enforced in the UK, sought reassurances, and discussed a range of measures to enhance communication with the Muslim community.
`We explained to the Director of Counter-Terrorism at the Home Office, our belief that there needs to be a real partnership between the British Muslim community and the police to help ensure that we defeat the common threat of terror that is facing us all. There are concerns in the community that police powers may be being abused and this can lead to resentment and mistrust at a time when we all need to cooperate to ensure the security of our country. In short, we need to know that the police are also policing themselves,' said Sadiq Khan, Chairman of the MCB's Legal Affairs committee.
The case of a young Muslim man from Tooting, London, who was reportedly physically assaulted and taunted by police officers during his arrest in early December 2003 was also raised with the Counter Terrorism Unit. The young man was released from custody six days later by the police without charge. The MCB has since been informed that the Department of Professional Standards at the Metropolitan Police have voluntarily referred this case to the Police Complaints Authority for investigation into possible misconduct by some of their officers.
The Home Office welcomed the positive discussion which forms part of a wider programme of meetings with faith groups. The delegation was assured that police were targeting people for suspected terrorist activity and not on the basis of ethnicity or religion. The Home Office said ongoing partnerships and close co-operation with the Muslim community and the police will be central to the shared aim of combating terrorism.
In response to calls for greater transparency about how the anti-terror powers have been used, the Home Office said that between September 2001 and December 2003 there had been 537 people arrested under the anti-terror legislation, with 94 of them being charged with terrorist-related offences and 6 convictions had been secured. 263 people had been released without charge. The MCB asked the Home Office to provide figures for the number of searches of premises without accompanied arrests - that had occurred and it was agreed this would be investigated further.
In response to a question from the MCB about religious profiling and concerns being expressed in the community, the National Coordinator of Ports Policing at the Home Office, said that at present they did not keep statistics of which country's nationals were stopped and questioned at airports but was willing to review this issue.
A number of next steps were agreed at the meeting including a proposal for members of the Muslim community to undertake a visit to a port to see how Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act is implemented.
The MCB delegation consisted of Sadiq Khan, Chair of the MCB's Legal Affairs committee, Reefat Drabu, Chair of the MCB's Women and Family Affairs committee and Inayat Bunglawala, Secretary of the MCB's Media committee.
Note for Editors:
The Muslim Council of Britain (www.mcb.org.uk) is the UK's representative Muslim umbrella body with over 400 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools.
For further information please contact tel: 07956 353 738 or 07860 375 725
For further information please contact the MCB:
The Muslim Council of Britain,
PO Box 57330,
Tel: 0845 26 26 786
Fax: 0207 247 7079