Reality for Muslims is they are more likely to be stopped by police, warns minister

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The Independent Online

Islamic groups reacted angrily yesterday after a minister stated that the Muslim community should accept as a "reality" that they were more likely to be stopped and searched by the police.

Islamic groups reacted angrily yesterday after a minister stated that the Muslim community should accept as a "reality" that they were more likely to be stopped and searched by the police.

Hazel Blears, the Home Office minister, warned that a disproportionate number of innocent Muslims were likely to be targeted by police because of laws designed to combat Islamic extremism.

"The threat is most likely to come from those people associated with an extreme form of Islam, or who are falsely hiding behind Islam," she told MPs.

"It means that some of our counter-terrorism powers will be disproportionately experienced by the Muslim community.

"I think that is the reality, and I think we should recognise that. If a threat is from a particular place, then our action is going to be targeted at that area."

The comments came during the all-party Home Affairs Select Committee's inquiry into the impact of anti-terror powers on community relations.

Islamic groups, which have repeatedly claimed that their communities are being victimised under anti-terror legislation, condemned Ms Blears' remarks.

Branding her comments "outrageous" and "irresponsible", Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "She is demonising and alienating our community. It is a legitimisation for a backlash and for racists to have an onslaught on our community. This sort of comment is music to the ears of racists."

Ihtisham Hibatullah, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, added: "We are very alarmed. The Muslim community is constantly being asked to help harmonise relationships within society, and we strive towards this. But how can it possibly help when the Government admits that Muslims are being targeted?

"As British citizens we are extremely concerned by this and we need to ask the Government to make its position in relation to Muslims very clear."

Last week, figures revealed that blacks and Asians were increasingly being targeted as they were more likely to be stopped and searched by police.

The overall number of times the controversial tactic was used by police fell by 15 per cent to 738,000 between 2003 and 2004. But the stop-and-search power was deployed against ethnic minorities more than during the previous year.

Asians were 1.9 times more likely to be stopped and searched in England and Wales during the last recorded year, compared with 1.7 times between 2002 and 2003.

Separate figures carried out under the Terrorism Act 2000 also confirmed the apparent trend that ethnic minorities were more likely to be stopped for police searches.

Muslim organisations feared that the Government was doing too little to prevent the spread of "Islamophobia".

"Only last week, Hazel Blears invited Muslim representatives, including our association, to a briefing about the control orders," said Mr Hibatullah. "For her to disregard everything that was said, and say a week later that the Muslim community are being targeted is unacceptable."

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