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2005-07-25

Hate Crimes Soar in Britain as Police Defend "Shoot to Kill" Policy

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A wave of anti-Muslim, Arab and South Asian hate crimes are sweeping Britain in the wake of the July 7th Subway and Bus bombings. Race and religion-based attacks are up 500% and communities of color are concerned that law enforcement authorities are also racially profiling targets in their anti-terrorism campaign. We go to London to speak with the Islamic Society of Britain. [includes rush transcript]

In London, civil rights groups are condemning racial profiling and anti-Muslim hate crimes following the July 7 subway and bus bombings.

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the 27-year-old Brazilian man shot and killed Friday by London police investigating the bombings, may sue over his death. Menezes was on his way to his job as an electrician on Friday morning when plain-clothes police officers in an anti-terrorism unit chased him into a subway station and shot him five times at point blank range.

Immediately after the shooting, police announced Menezes had ties to the July 7 subway and bus bombings. But a day later they admitted they were wrong and Menezes had no connection to the bombings. Police chief Sir Ian Blair apologized to Menezes’s family, but stood behind the new "shoot-to-kill" policy.

Menezes’s Cousin Maria do Socorro told BBC Radio "You would think the British police would be prepared, but they are panicking and seeing everyone as a suspect. If you are going to have a war on terror, you have got to use brains to fight it not just brute force."

Menezes had been living in London for more than three years and was sending money home to pay for his father’s cancer treatments.

Meanwhile in England, hate crimes targeting Muslims, Arabs and South Asians have risen by 500 (five hundred) percent since the July 7 bombings. The Guardian of London reports that more than 1,000 (one thousand) race and faith-based attacks have been reported to police across the country since the bombings, though community leaders believe the actual number of incidents is at least four times higher.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We are joined right now on the line from London by Ajmal Masroor, spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Britain. Welcome to Democracy Now!

AJMAL MASROOR: Hello, hi.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have with you us. Can you describe what is happening right now in Britain, the climate?

AJMAL MASROOR: The climate in Britain, as you have summed up very well, and that is one of fear, and the other is of anxiety. Fear by the communities, all communities, just in case we get any of our city bombed again. And the fear amongst the minority communities, such as Muslims, is the fear of reprisal. Many mosques have been attacked, many individuals have been attacked. One person was beaten to death. So there is a great deal of fear. And the sister of the gentleman who lost his life so tragically in London by the police shoot-to-kill policy summed it up. You need to use brain, not brute force. And that’s the fear that’s engulfing the community across the U.K. at the moment.

AMY GOODMAN: For people in this country who might not be aware, the British police traditionally have not carried guns, is that right?

AJMAL MASROOR: Absolutely correct. We used to — we have always been proud of our police force that we never needed guns on our streets, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And so what kind of training do British police have in using guns?

AJMAL MASROOR: Well, I’m told they come to U.S. to get quite a lot of training to use the arms. And, of course, they have their own special training unit. What happened on Friday was unfortunate, of course, but it’s a tragedy that we should all remember. Shoot-to-kill policy can result in lots of victims, and I don’t think and especially most people in this country, I believe, will agree with me that this is not a befitting tribute to those who have lost their lives in the 7th of July bombing. I think we need to be more cautious, and we need to use only appropriate force, if need be, after we have exhausted all the options.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Ajmal Masroor, spokesperson for Islamic Society of Britain. Can you talk about the increase in the attacks on Muslims, on Arabs in Britain on people of South Asian dissent?

AJMAL MASROOR: Yes, we can. In a small village last week, when I came out of my car, a group of young people shouted, "Oh, terrorists have landed." Now this is nothing abnormal since the July the 7th attack in London. People up and down the country are facing a great deal of reprisal. I receive emails on a daily basis. I know organizations who service, and the internet network has been completely destroyed because of hate mail. One organization received 30,000 emails within a couple of hours after bombing. Now unfortunately, what we don’t want is we do not want the terrorists to win. And if people play into the hands of terrorists, then react, and we see reprisals, then terrorists have won.

AMY GOODMAN: Ajmal Masroor, what about the number of Muslims, Asians, in the British police force?

AJMAL MASROOR: It is disproportionate. We don’t have sufficient members of the Asian dissent or Muslim background in the police force. The police force over the last few years, they have been doing a pretty good job in getting their message across. I must say that once the bombing took place in London, police force in U.K. were behaving impeccably. Their language, everything that they did were very measured and very calculated and were correct. Only now that the shoot-to-kill policy that’s come to light is bringing fear in the heart of the community. To say that there is enough police would be unfair. There need to be more visible Muslim, as well as ethnic minority police in the British police force.

AMY GOODMAN: Ajmal Masroor, what is your response to the Chatham House report, and also to the former foreign minister, Robin Cook, saying that the increase in attacks is related to the invasion and occupation of Iraq?

AJMAL MASROOR: I think increase and instability across the globe, not only in the U.K., but any other parts of the world where such brutal and heinous acts are being carried out in the name of whatever political cause, can all be related to some of the foreign policies, I’m afraid, of Britain and your country, America. And we do not want to give justification for any of these kind of attacks or criminal activities. But we, as civilized people, need to know the causes and remedy them. Otherwise, we will be labeled as people in denial, just like some of our governments are at the moment in denial.

AMY GOODMAN: How are you organizing right now?

AJMAL MASROOR: Well, we are organizing a big event this evening where we are bringing people of all faith and all background together. We are calling it Standing Together for Building Stronger Communities. What we want to do is launch a positive campaign to insure that we don’t fight between ourselves. What we also want to do is tell the government, both British and U.S. government, very clearly, that their policies, especially foreign policies, have destabilized the world, let alone fight terror. They have increased terror and attack. And we innocent civilians have become the victim of their misguided policy. So we are organizing, and we’ll continue. I believe people’s power hopefully will bring to task some of our misguided politicians.

AMY GOODMAN: Ajmal Masroor, I want to thank you very much for being with us, spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Britain.

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