Crackdown by police is 'driving Muslims to extremists'

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The Independent Online

Heavy handed anti-terrorist policing is driving British Muslims into the hands of al-Qa'ida and other Islamic extremist groups, David Blunkett and Scotland Yard have been warned.

The Muslim community is increasingly alarmed at the number of people being arrested for suspected anti-terrorist offences, but released without charge.

Extremists, such as the supporters of al-Qa'ida and al-Muhajiroun, a radical Muslim organisation, are attempting to exploit this unrest and recruit new members in Britain, the Home Secretary and the police have been told.

The warning by Muslim leaders follows the arrest of 537 people by the Metropolitan Police under anti-terrorist legislation since the 11 September attacks in 2001. Of those detained, 94 have been charged with terrorist-related offences and six have been convicted.

Dozens of other Muslims have had their homes raided and computers and possessions seized. Several have accused the police of beating and abusing them.

One Muslim man claims he was assaulted and held for six days before being released without charge. His case is being investigated by the Police Complaints Authority.

Reshard Auladin, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority's professional standards and complaints committee, said Scotland Yard needed to provide a clearer explanation of police action.He said: "The message the extremists are giving is that the community is under siege."

He added: "It is important that the police explain their action and say why these arrests are being made. It is about being more open."

Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "We are greatly concerned about the number of arrests, some of which were accompanied by some vicious beatings.

"The police knows the Muslim community wants to help the war on terror, but this kind of action can only create bad faith and mistrust."

Sir Ian Blair, the deputy commissioner of the Met, said: "We are fully aware of the way in which some of our police activity is being portrayed. We are continuing to work with the Muslim community."