Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Short term objectives, long-term consequences.

Last week eight men were arrested in Birmingham in early morning raids. A ninth was arrested later in the day. It immerged the police had information of a plot to kidnap a Muslim British soldier and to film his beheading.

Almost immediately members of the community where the arrested live were publicly voicing their incredulity of the arrest of hardworking shopkeepers who were not devote Muslims. Three days after the arrest it became known that those arrested were still waiting to be questioned.

Today, two of those arrested were released without charge. They said they were never questioned about a plot to kidnap a soldier. Their solicitor said both men had met with “consistent refusal” of an explanation of their arrest.

The police and security services have a difficult job to do. If a bomb goes off on the British mainland, questions are immediately asked “why was this allowed to happen?”. They quite correctly say they can stop thirty plots but it only takes one plot to pass under their radar for innocent people to be killed and for them to be blamed.

Unfortunately it only takes one innocent Muslim to be arrested and held for five days without an explanation, why he was arrested, for people in his community to be alienated. There is a fight for the hearts and minds of the young vulnerable Muslims. On one side there are the radical Muslim clerics on the other there should be the voice of reason. Unfortunately the voice of reason is missing. It is not being provided by the moderates within the Muslim community, and unfortunately the governments handling of the whole affair has been inept.

The Government preaches rather than communicates. And the action of the police, rightly or wrongly, is seen as being at best heavy handed at worst they are deliberately targeting Muslims. Today’s statement by the police “Balancing the safety of the public against the rights of the seven men in custody remained their priority”, does not help and is naively short-sighted. Police action is perceived to run roughshod over the rights of individuals. If as is stated in the press the target of the kidnap plot was known, protection could have been provided to him, until the true perpetrators were identified, avoiding the arrest of innocent men.

Unfortunately the government and its security services are doing more long-term damage than any terrorist group. They are alienating a sector of society. As with any moderate group the silent majority within the Muslim community cannot be expected to take action against radicals within their community. Ultimately affairs will take their natural course, with actions and reactions. All that can be done is to insure the security and police services do nothing to aggravate the situation.

If you want to see the future, look at today. In the past the police was a racist organisation. In 1999 the report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence labelled London’s police force “institutionally racist”. It will take years for the police to earn the trust of the black community. Similar lasting damage is occurring in the Muslim community.

The police must be seen to be working with and not against communities. This starts with the way policemen on the beat perform their duty and more so the way special operations are undertaken - sensitivity is required in the way they are performed and the statements made for the reasons for those special operations. Regrettably in an endeavour to give confidence to the general public, that the police have the situation under control, they give the impression of being too gung-ho.

No comments: