Sense of grievance is dangerous nonsense

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor The view that a British police state is picking on Muslims in this country for no good reason seems to be gaining ground – not least because it is given credence by some established Muslim leaders. But it is, argues political editor Chris Fisher, complete and dangerous nonsense.

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor

Britain is "a police state for Muslims". The allegation was made on BBC2's Newsnight on Wednesday evening by Abu Bakr, one of the nine men arrested over an alleged plot to capture and behead a Muslim soldier in the British Army. He, along with one other suspect, had been released earlier in that day.

By yesterday the story was virtually everywhere in the media. That in itself disproved Mr Bakr's assertion, because - obviously - in a real police state he would not have been allowed to broadcast his dissent over the airwaves. But I don't suppose that irony is his forte.

A fuller quote of the views he expressed on Newsnight went as follows: "It's a police state for Muslims, it's not a police state for everyone else, because these terror laws are designed specifically for Muslims. That's quite an open fact because the people who have been arrested under terrorism laws, the groups for example that have been banned under the terrorism laws, the people that have been affected by terrorism legislation, have been Muslims. So we are feeling the brunt of it. We are the ones that are being locked up, detained, and then told to go back to our lives."

Quite a bit of this is absolutely irrefutable. The people being arrested under the government's counter-terrorism legislation are, almost without exception, Muslims. But why is that? We are hardly into rocket science, or eligibility for Mensa membership, with this one. As an example of failing to see what is staring you in the face, Mr Bakr's comments take some beating.

Let's give him a clue. Might the fact that Muslims are feeling the brunt of the counter-terrorism laws have something to do with the events of July 7, 2005, when more than 50 people were killed in London by Islamist terrorists? Might it have something to do with the fact that the people on trial for the alleged '21/7' bomb conspiracy in London purport to be Muslims? Might it have something to do with the fact that in recent years there has been a barrage of rhetoric from Islamist extremists apparently threatening British authorities and society with various forms of jihadist violence? (People like Abu Izzadeen, who was arrested yesterday for allegedly encouraging terrorism.)

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Let me put it another way. Why it is that the police and security services have not been launching dawn raids on and arresting Hindus and Sikhs? Why have they not been monitoring the activities of young (and sometimes not-so-young) men who are Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Mormons, Catholics, Methodists or Anglicans? Why don't they keep tabs on the activities of all the opposition parties and, indeed, the WI which gave the prime minister a rough ride a few years back?

Might it be that - with the IRA having put down its bombs and guns - the threat of terrorism is coming almost entirely from one community in this country, and that it is the Muslim community? The question answers itself. One might as well complain that the brunt of anti-burglary legislation is being felt by people who break into other people's houses, and that the police should be just as interested in non-burglars.

Mr Bakr, it seems to me, is only a marginal figure in this story. And his tirade - which may owe something to contact with civil rights lawyers - is less worrying than the evidence that his point of view is similar to that of some supposedly mainstream and even 'establishment' leaders of Muslim opinion in this country.

Take, for example, Mohammed Naseem, chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque, who reacted to the arrest of the nine men in the alleged beheading case by saying that Muslims in Britain were now like Jews in Nazi Germany. Not content with that, he declared that the arrests were an example of the government trying to justify its political agenda and anti-terror laws, and that "they have invented this perception of a threat".

Yes, Dr Naseem, the '7/7' murders didn't really happen. The people supposedly killed are either still alive or never really existed. Try telling that to their families.

Dr Nasseem had a frank exchange of views - publicly described as a "blazing row" - with David Cameron this week when the Tory leader visited his mosque and challenged his views.

He in turn was cross that Mr Cameron had adversely criticised the Muslim Council of Britain and stated that "those who seek a sharia state, or special treatment and a special law for British Muslims are, in many ways, the mirror image of the BNP".

Why was this a shocking thing to say? Wasn't it essentially true? Aren't Islamist terrorists and their supporters and apologists just as fascistic, in their way, as the Nazis?

How can it help to overcome these problems if supposedly respectable Muslim leaders give weight to the utterly spurious view that a British police state is victimising some members of their community - and, much more than that, their community as a whole? Perhaps some of them should move to, say, Syria, and then speak out of turn. They might quickly change their minds about this country.

Islamist extremists and hangers-on do not have a monopoly of this sort of thing. John Sentamu has recently opined that Britain is "coming close to a police state". Just because you are the Archbishop of York, it doesn't mean you can't spout nonsense.