Anti-Terror Laws Alienate Muslims

One of Britain’s top police officers will today warn that anti-terrorism laws are discriminating against Muslims and law enforcement agencies are running a “real risk” of criminalising ethnic minorities. Tarique Ghaffur, assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan police, will also call for “an independent judicial review” of why some young British Muslims turn to extremism. He warns that more work is needed to stop the “flight, fright or separation” of British Muslim communities after the July 7 2005 bombings in London.
Mr Ghaffur, Britain’s highest-ranking Muslim police officer, will today address a National Black Police Association conference in Manchester and tell how racism has blighted his own career.

Since the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States, western countries have toughened counter-terrorism laws. Mr Ghaffur will say: “Not only has anti-terrorism and security legislation been tightened across many European countries with the effect of indirectly discriminating against Muslims, but other equally unwanted practices have also emerged, including ‘passenger profiling’ as well as increased stop and search and arrest under terrorism legislation.”

In Britain, people of Asian appearance have borne the brunt of increased stopping and searching. Police have said the practice is “intelligence-led”, but Mr Ghaffur appears to cast doubt on this repeated defence: “These practices tend to be based more on physical appearance than being intelligence-led.”

Mr Ghaffur will say the July 7 attacks “revealed some of the limitations of the policing response” and other authorities such as Revenue and Customs are acting in a way that could be counterproductive: “There is a very real danger that the counter-terrorism label is also being used by other law enforcement agencies to the effect that there is a real risk of criminalising minority communities.

“The impact of this will be that just at the time we need the confidence and trust of these communities, they may retreat inside themselves. We therefore need proper accountability and transparency round all policy and direction that affects communities.”

He will say the hundreds of arrests for terrorism since September 11, with relatively few convictions for Islamist terrorism, amount to “wide-scale enforcement” that has created “a strong feeling of mass stereotyping with the Muslim community and in fact the wider non-Muslim south Asian communities”.

Since July 7 there has been an intensified effort among counter-terrorism agencies to understand why some young British Muslims turn to violence. Mr Ghaffur will propose a judicial inquiry along the lines of Lord Scarman’s examination of the 1981 Brixton riots that were a landmark in British race relations: “We must think long and hard about the causal factors of anger and resentment. In particular, we need to adopt an evidence-based approach to building solutions.”

Mr Ghaffur will warn that British policing must do more to tackle discrimination within the ranks, arguing that it has affected his own career progression. He says ethnic minority officers face an ever-present “miasma” or “toxic fog” of “misperceptions and distorted accounts of their behaviour from colleagues”.

Mr Ghaffur will say: “I have been deliberately excluded from groups, processes and decision-making on occasions. I have had creative ideas turned down, only for them to then be subsequently suggested by colleagues and accepted.”

Mr Ghaffur last year failed in his bid to become deputy commissioner of the Met, and before that was unsuccessful in applying to the chief constable of the next three biggest forces in England and Wales, namely Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and West Midlands.

“Each process attracted unfair media attention, had no true level of independence and basically amounted to informal appraisal of me as an individual rather than a proper assessment of my experiences and competencies,” he will say.