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December 21, 2005
Straw assures Muslims going for Hajj will not be detained unnecessarily at airports
Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, assured Muslims in an exclusive interview with The Muslim News at the launch of the seventh British Hajj delegation yesterday, that the pilgrims on their way to and from the Hajj would not be detained unnecessarily under anti terror laws at the airport.
“Police are under instructions not to use their powers where they don’t need to and to be sensitive,” he told The Muslim News.
Hundreds of Muslims are being detained and interrogated at the airports under anti terror legislation, and the number increases during the Hajj time when over 25,000 pilgrims go the Saudi Arabia. Most Muslims will be leaving for pilgrimage next week.
Straw said detention of pilgrims would not be “inconsistent with having effective laws against terrorism.”
Straw gave an example of detention of a prominent and well respected Muslim scholar, Shaykh Yusuf Motala, residing in the Foreign Secretary’s Blackburn constituency, during a lesser pilgrimage (‘Umrah) in the month of Ramadan in November 2003. The Shaykh was held for questioning for seven hours at the airport and he missed his flight for the pilgrimage. Straw said that the security forces “learnt quite lot” from this and other cases.
Straw gave assurance that such cases are taken seriously and “every complaint would definitely be followed-up.”
However, he justified the large number of profiling of Muslims at airports by saying that people “from every faith can be a victim of terrorism.” He sympathised with the Muslim community and understood the sensitivity of the situation. “It’s the Muslim community that suffers the most of all by this terrible terrorism and it’s in everybody’s interest therefore that we do everything that we can to prevent it but its important that this is done in a balanced way.”
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