08/07/2006

British, U.S. officers warn of strain with Muslim community

British, U.S. police officers warn of strain with Muslim community
By ROB HARRIS
Associated Press Writer

MANCHESTER, England- Top U.S. and British police officers warned Monday that a generation of angry Muslims is being radicalized by the actions of law enforcement agencies.

Failure to win the confidence and trust of minority communities in the battle against terrorism would pose a grave threat to national security, they said at the start of a weeklong international gathering of black police officers.

Some police are alienating minorities by stereotyping them as criminals, said Tarique Ghaffur, assistant commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police. In Britain, police must work with Muslims to prevent a repeat of the suicide bombings that killed 52 commuters on London's transit system on July 7, 2005, he argued.

"There is a significant lack of confidence among British Muslims in the police and its leadership, and they have experienced hostility or suspicion since the July bombings," Ghaffur said.

Many British Muslims were outraged by a June police operation in which a suspect was shot in the shoulder after police raided his home looking for a chemical bomb. He and his brother were both arrested, but later were released without charge.

Ghaffur said such missteps drove young people toward radicalism.

"The cumulative effect of (anti-Muslim discrimination), both internationally and nationally ... has created a generation of angry young people who are vulnerable to exploitation," he said.

"The simplistic anti-Western messages of extremist organizations can be attractive to such vulnerable young people, advocating closed and hostile views of other religions."

Marcus Jones, chairman of the U.S. National Black Police Association, based in Washington, warned that American officers have to learn the same lessons.

Racial profiling by officers demonstrates a lack of understanding of Islam, he told The Associated Press.

He said that if police did not reach out to them, young Muslims could resort to terrorist acts on U.S. soil.

"Across the world they see the mistreatment of Muslims, and that only fuels the fire," Jones said. "Those people who are extremists, it fuels them into that radical behavior."

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