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Britain 'moving towards a police state'

London Telegraph | February 2, 2007
Ben Fenton and Jonathan Petre

One of Birmingham's most senior Muslims has said that Britain is “moving towards a police state”, but he appealed for his co-religionists to stay calm in the wake of the arrest of nine men in an alleged kidnap plot.

Dr Mohammad Naseem, the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, said it was vital that Muslims in the city did not panic or become angry despite growing scepticism about the intelligence which led to the arrests on Wednesday.

Dr Naseem's call came after Islamic religious leaders nationwide urged Muslims to co-operate with police investigating the alleged plot to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim soldier.

Dr Naseem said that although it was “not a time to panic or get angry”, he disagreed with the manner of the arrests and the use of laws on the detention and questioning of suspects.

“This unfortunate country is moving towards a police state - the laws being passed are wrong and against the traditions of this country,” Dr Naseem said.

About 4,000 worshippers are expected to attend Friday prayers this afternoon at the Central Mosque, one of Europe's largest.

The Muslim Council of Britain, the largest Muslim umbrella group, said “very serious allegations” had been made, and the police must be helped to complete their investigations.

A senior member of the council warned that the public glare of the media would damage the wider Muslim community even if the police raids later proved to be baseless.

“There is so much adverse publicity ,” he said. “There have been a number of cases where the police have moved in and nothing has been found. But by then the damage has been done.”

Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, said there was huge concern that the public formed impressions of Muslims from such “snap shots” as the Birmingham arrests.

West Midlands police held a public relations exercise in the area, distributing thousands of leaflets reassuring Muslims that they were not targeting communities or faiths, but suspected criminals.

Muslim groups point out that more than half of the 1,100 people arrested as terrorism suspects over the past five years have been released without charge.

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