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August 24, 2002

British Muslims complain of ‘harassment’ by security services

Special Branch police and MI5 security service have visited the homes of over 30 Muslims and more than 100 mosques and Islamic organisations in recent months to seek information on possible terrorists, reveals next Friday edition of The Muslim News.

The visits, referred to as ‘fishing’ expeditions, has caused much distress in the Muslim community, with many of those visited saying they were “frightened,” “felt intimidated,” “worried” and could not understand the need for such intense questioning.

Most responded by writing letters of complaints to Home Secretary David Blunkett and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw about the tactics causing the Home Office to issue an apology.

“I am sorry that anyone interviewed was distressed by the experience,” Blunkett said in reply to one mosque council. “I appreciate and share your concern that nothing is done to undermine good community relations,” he said.

The security services paid visits to Muslims in many cities across Britain, including London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bolton, Leicester and Blackburn, Straw’s Parliamentary constituency. Many went to Imams of Indian origin, trained in the UK.

“We saw your names somewhere in Afghanistan,” Muslims were told at the start of a typical conversation. This led to such questions as: “Do you have any relations with the Taliban? Are you supporting al-Qaida? Are you funding al-Qaida?”

All of those visited said they cooperated with the security service officers, many fearing that it would otherwise arouse further unfounded suspicions. Officers were found to have detailed information about those questioned, including which mosques they frequented, indicating that there are contacts in the Muslim community mosques working for intelligence agencies.

Questions to mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations were found to also revolve around the presence of “extremists” in their midst. “The Special Branch confided that the Reid case had taken them off-guard and needed information on extremists in mosques and Islamic institutions,” one executive member of a Muslim organisation in London told The Muslim News.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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