Time to change the record and co-operate with Muslim community

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The Independent Online

Failed by our government. Failed by our security services. The shocking findings in The Independent today about the extent to which security services have tried to intimidate and collect private information on British Muslims – from one of our foremost educational institutions, no less – will have clear ramifications for young British Muslims.

It isn't so much that a Students' Union felt the need to succumb to the "requests" of anti-terror police and give away the names, addresses and telephone numbers of more than 800 innocent British Muslim students. It is more that it felt it could do this with impunity in an environment where it has become acceptable to treat Muslims differently and to stigmatise and criminalise a whole community.

That our security services are sharing this information with a government with whom we are supposed to have a "special relationship" really rubs salt in the wounds. When we have a one-way extradition treaty to a country whose own lawmakers accept that it cannot be trusted with its civil liberties, what heritage and pride have we left to talk about?

Britain today is failing its Muslim citizens. Places where free debate is part of the moulding of one's character and the basis of understanding and appreciating our democracy are being shut off to this community.

Thanks to one individual who wasn't even British, and someone who was radicalised in another country after he left Britain, Islamic societies across our universities are being harassed and young British Muslims are being treated as suspects.

The fight against terrorism cannot be fought without intelligence. It is when those gathering it lose sight of the very liberties that they are trying to protect that we have to start questioning ourselves.

The Communities and Local Government select committee report on the Government's Prevent programme concluded that it "stigmatised and alienated those it is most important to engage with". When our security services are left without proper checks and controls, and a climate of fear and suspicion makes it acceptable to allow people to look through neoconservative lenses when dealing with a minority, we are on a slippery slope to a society that is the complete opposite of the one that many are dying to protect every day.

The writer is the chairman of the Kentish Town Community Centre

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