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October 13, 2006

If the Police have to consult "community representatives" before launching anti-terror raids the public will be at greater risk from terror attacks - argues Jon Davies

Posted by Jon Davies

It has been proposed that before the police launch an anti-terror raid they should have to consult a panel of four "community representatives". If this were to happen - argues Jon Davies, formerly the Head of Religious Studies at Newcastle University - the public would be at greater risk from terror attacks.

Some time ago, at the time of much Muslim complaint about the Forest Gate police raid, I wrote the following:

It seems obvious, does it not, that in future all Police raids on suspected terrorists should be preceded by the dispatch, to the homes and lairs of these terrorists, and a day in advance of the arrival of the constables, of representatives of the Independent Police Complaints Commission. In this way, these innocent terrorists and their mothers should be able to get their complaint in first. Constables could help here by circulating, in advance, a check-list of the about-to-be-complained-about actions which the Police had in mind or were indeed determined to perpetrate.
At the time, this seemed to be an exercise in the supposititious and the burlesque, on a par with jokes about burqua-insistent women turning up on police identification parades.

Yet what was understood by me to be fantasy turned out, extraordinarily enough, to be reality. In the Sunday Times ("Police to brief Muslims before Terror raids", 24th September 2006), journalist Abul Taher described plans to create, for each of the UK's 53 police forces, panels of four Muslims who will be consulted before any raid the police might be intending, so that they (the four Muslims) can give their views on the effect on "the community" of the about-to-happen raid, and offer comment on the quality of the police intelligence on particular suspects.

The Association of Chief Police Officers is currently considering this: and they and MI5 and the Home Office are considering whether or how to release security data to the panel members. Panel members will promise not to reveal such security intelligence they might be given, but they will not be required to sign the Official Secrets Act. Instead, as a letter from the Home Office tells me (letter T39120/6):

anyone who is engaged by the police in a scrutiny process will have to be security cleared to a high level.
DI Slater of the Metropolitan Police urged me to consider that such measures, while not yet fully in place, were a necessary part of "community" relations, ignoring the fact that the vast bulk of "the" community is of course excluded from these privileges, and that from only one "community" are terrorist activities likely (at the moment) to come.

As if all this was an insufficient diet of astonishing police-related delights, we had at the beginning of October the spectacle of a Metropolitan Police Officer, a member of the Diplomatic Protection Group no less, declining to do his job of guarding diplomats on the grounds that the diplomats in question were Jews and he was a Muslim. Even more amazingly, this was followed by an article in the Daily Telegraph by the shadow Home Secretary assuring us that members of the police:

cannot pick and choose what duties they [are prepared to] fulfil.
This is, of course, all very true - as true as the fact that pavements are flat, that apples are not pears, that fire will burn, and that bridges made of chewing gum will not bear the weight put upon them. It is truly astonishing that the Daily Telegraph finds it necessary to print, and David Davis to utter, these banalities. It is a measure of how far our Police have been corrupted in their encounter with multiculturalism, and with Islam in particular.

It would appear on the surface that the Forest Gate police raid gave rise to all this concern for "community relations". However, it would be a mistake to assume that it was activity by the British police in Forest Gate which has resulted in this racking and penetration of the police service. The Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), which is leading the charge, was set up:

following 9/11 and the subsequent unfair focus on the Muslim community when it comes to policing activities and enforcement of anti-terror policing legislations . . The Muslim community will not suffer in silence and allow misconceptions, prejudice and ignorance to influence policing activities in the UK. Consequently, the MSF came into existence in the year 2000 and has been scrutinising police activities that have been particularly affecting the Muslim community.
[MSF website - emphasis in original]
The MSF has an office with two staff, an executive body, and membership of over 30 Muslim organisations. It meets monthly or regularly with the ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers), the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service), the MPA (Metropolitan Police Authority), the Home Office and the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission). It sits on the "Stop and Search" group, and other bodies. It is active in and on the media:
The messages have been of unity, justice, safety, security, and a "zero tolerance" response from the police against Islamophobic crimes. The overriding objective of the MSF is to identify the safety and security needs of the Muslim community in the UK and seek the fulfilment of those needs within the legal and political framework of the UK . . . . We are looking at activities within the policing services that can generate ant-Muslim feelings or disproportionate policing in the community (e.g. Stop and Search, Anti-Terror Raids, Islamophobic hate crimes) [and] we are constantly questioning policing tactics and policies on the usage of the anti-terrorist legislations . . .
[MSF website - emphasis added]
It is the MSF which is pushing for the introduction of these Panels into the MPS and then into all police forces. The Forest Gate raid gave these kinds of Muslim interventions in to the police force an opportunity which had been long in the making.

It is hard to see how the police can do their job if small though very vocal minorities, from which section of society has come most of what we on the street can recognise as terror, are given such privileged access to the operations of the police. What can the ordinary PCs think? Concerned about charges of "racism" or "islamophobia", they are already diffident about a determined prosecution of anti-terrorism policies (The Daily Telegraph October 12 2006). How keen will they be to arrest, say, Muslims when such arrests may well end up being scrutinised by a Panel whose members have routine access to their Chief Constable?

Why should a member of the majority community (that is, the community always ignored in the rhetoric of "community") draw to the attention of the police what seems to him to be the dubious activity of Muslim neighbours, when such intervention could then be run in front of these Panels, whose members would surely be hard-put not to pass on, at the mosque or at home, some snippet of what is going on? If this results in the harassment of the initial informant, or the rapid scuttling of some unpleasant plot, are the police then liable to criminal charges or to a civil suit? If each of the 53 separate police forces has four Panel members, none of them bound by the Official Secrets, then over 200 Muslim "community representatives" will have privileged access to police operational decisions.

A simple exercise in sociometry will place these 200 at the centre of an extensive web of family, friends, business acquaintances, fellow-worshippers, and so on. Such Panel members will surely find it almost impossible both to retain these vital social networks and at the same time to remain mute on what they have learnt as familiars of the police. After all, as the MSF website has it:

the overriding objective of the MSF is to identify the safety and security needs of the Muslim community in the UK.
Jon Davies recently retired as Head of Religious Studies at Newcastle University. He is the author and editor of books on urban planning, contemporary social attitudes, and death in the ancient world; and is currently working on a book on the patterns of enmities surrounding the West.


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