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Last Updated: Friday, 5 August, 2005, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Can government strategies improve relations?
Hazel Blears meets senior Muslims
Home Office Minister Hazel Blears has said people should not be stopped and searched just because they are Muslim.

She made the warning before a series of meetings across the UK with Muslim leaders, police and local councillors. The meetings were an attempt to improve community relations and root out extremists.

Mrs Blears stated that she wanted to ensure that the "genuine anger" of some young Muslims was heard.

She also added that to tackle the threat of terrorism, the police needed to retain the confidence of specific groups so that they, "can come forward, give information and be part of the fight against this threat."

Do you think stop and search can be an effective measure? Are the Muslim leaders representative of the Muslim community? How can they prevent young people from being drawn into extremism? Send us your comments.


This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

What choice do the police seriously have right now but to stop and search individuals who match the terrorist profile?
Nick, Atlanta, GA , USA
The 52 innocent people who were brutally killed by suicide bombers on July 7th had nothing to do with the war in Iraq or British government foreign policy. We live in a civilised Western society where we have the right to peacefully protest. Unless the government invest in the technology that can detect bombs on trains and buses what choice do the police seriously have right now but to stop and search individuals who match the terrorist profile?
Nick, Atlanta, GA, USA (formerly London)

I was stopped when I went to London a few days ago. The police didn't just search me and my small bag but I was detained for over 20 minutes. While they did a background check I guess. Then I was let go. I was at the train station at the time heading home. Guess what, when I got to my home station I was stopped and searched again! My crime, having skin darker than white. My ethnic background is mixed white and South American. I no more fit the profile of the suicide bombers than any white person. I was stopped purely because of my skin. Where is the justice in that?
Laurence Brown, Wellingborough

In the 70s I was stopped and searched by the police several times as my name was Northern Irish. Our very anti-Irish neighbour reported us on several occasions as IRA bombers and we were raided by the police. We were a family of four with two teenage children. Throughout everything my father and the rest of the family bore this with good grace accepting that it wasn't personal but that it was something that would happen as a result of Irish terrorist activity. British Muslims should consider doing the same.
Eleanor, London

A number of religious communities, such as Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians who have strong allegiance to this nation and take pride in belonging to this nation have suddenly come under suspicion.
Anon, Newcastle

The job of the police is to rule suspects out so that they can narrow in on the true perpetrator. None of them July bombers was white. That isn't racial profiling. It's detective work.
Jeremy, Toronto, Canada

So what if I get stopped because of the way I look?
George, London
I have Mediterranean blood and my skin is darker than usual at this time of year. As a result, I know that to some I may look Asian. I travel into London every day carrying a laptop bag and I won't be surprised if I get stopped by police some time soon. I would not be offended in the slightest if this happened, simply because I understand that it's being done for my protection and that of my fellow commuters. So what if I get stopped because of the way I look? I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear from searches because I'm not a terrorist. Let's please all stop being so precious about being stopped and searched - it's ultimately for our own protection.
George, London

How can Muslim leaders be representative when none of them have been elected and none of them have ever tried to make contact with us? In fact I do not know anyone who knows who these so called leaders are and where they came from and how they managed to set themselves up as leaders. I don't think stop and search will achieve much. I don't think Muslims should get 'offended' - after all, it is clear that the perpetrators of the crime are Muslim, though their cause is not far from clear. I'd find it totally degrading though if I was going about my business and was stopped and searched just because I am so obviously one - females can't just take their scarves off like men can shave their beards.
Hope Full, UK

When I was a lovely young thing back in the 70s and early 80s I often used to get my handbag searched, especially in public buildings like museums. Sometimes with embarrassing results. I heard someone say on the Today programme yesterday that nobody would bother about searching old white women. I realised with a horrified start that they mean me!
Fran, London

Why should Muslims be different?
David, London
I have only been stopped at customs once - when I came back from Colombia. Latin Americans in this country don't complain that they are far more likely to be searched at the airport than people from Norway. Why should Muslims be different?
David, London

Certainly it is most commendable that the British authorities are making a substantial effort to develop a better understanding and address concerns of the British Muslim community. I wish our NY police, the NY city Mayor Bloomberg and NY's Governor Pataki could learn a thing or two from the Brits about civility and a genuine desire to resolve such issues.
David Stern, NY, USA

You explain to the victims' families that you didn't search bags, because you didn't want to hurt the bombers' feelings and see if they are understanding.
Bob, Warrington

Hazel Blears and others say they do not want to alienate Muslims. What about all the Hindus, Sikhs etc who will be suspected because they have brown skin, does it not matter if they are alienated?
Dhiraj Patel, London

I'm afraid I feel the one in need of a degree of reassurance here
Mike, South Coast England
I'm concerned about the government's stance in trying to placate Muslims. It is extremists in the Muslim community who have made all people feel vulnerable, not just about stop and search but about death from bombings. I'm afraid I feel the one in need of a degree of reassurance here, not the Muslims. I hope the government starts to get this message soon.
Mike, South Coast England

The pointless words of Hazel Blears do nothing to reassure the ordinary London traveller or UK citizen, and superficially appeases those who are out to perpetrate these vicious, cowardly attacks. Like it or not, there is a 'profile' that the police have to use to identify the current terrorists, so leave the police to do their job.
Ian, Maidstone, Kent

Hazel Blears is so out of touch with reality. PC gone mad. Look at the pictures of the bomb suspects and ask yourself why the police should not target people with that specific profile!
Matt, Plymouth

It's crucial that the police continue to perform these searches
Raj, London
I have no problem with the searches. I am not a Muslim but I am Asian and I know that it's going to be impossible to tell the faiths apart. With this in mind, I can understand the need for the police to search specific groups which fit the profile of suspected terrorists. It's crucial that the police continue to perform these searches, as long as they are done in a correct and dignified manner.
Raj, London

I'm a middle aged, white woman and I was frisked and tested for explosives at Sydney Airport last week. I felt a lot more secure on boarding the plane.
Maureen B, London

I am a young Muslim man and have no problems with the police stopping me, these people need to be rooted out from our religion and if this means me and others who 'look like me' being stopped and searched then so be it.
Rashad Akbar, Bradford

It's about time Ministers stopped pandering to the Muslim community and started considering the 7/7 victims and their families. The government should stop trying to appease the general Muslim community and should focus on rooting out trouble makers.
Peter Murphy, Birmingham

The emphasis should be on intelligence and not on the exclusion of members of society
Dez Lynch, Leeds
No good will come of this. The emphasis should be on intelligence and not on the exclusion of members of society. This will only add fuel to radical Muslims who believe the West is trying to force out their way of life.
Dez Lynch, Leeds

When I was in my late teens, as a car driver I was frequently stopped late at night. As a white male, I never objected, I know I fitted the likely car-thief/criminal profile.
Simon, England

Very little will be achieved until the government is candid about the motivation of the bombers, namely the war on Iraq. Only when the government admits the truth will the first step towards reconciliation with Britain's Muslim communities begin.
T, London

Yes the police should monitor more closely specific people who fit the profile. But they should only stop and search those who begin to act suspiciously.
Neil K, Swindon

It may not be pleasant for the innocent, but there is more at stake here than their feelings
Chris, Twickenham
Why should the police have to tip-toe around the issue in the name of political correctness? If Asian men have been committing these atrocities, then Asian men should be singled out. It may not be pleasant for the innocent, but there is more at stake here than their feelings.
Chris, Twickenham

In response to Tariq: White English people were upset at the prospect of the war in Iraq hence the peaceful demonstrations and protests. But you don't see white Christians blowing up their country.
Paul, Bournemouth

The police need to be allowed to get on with their job without politicians interfering. And everyone in London needs to accept the fact that stop and search is there to deter terrorists and make us all feel safer.
Sami, London

I do not believe it is possible to tell whether somebody is Muslim just from their appearance. People are being stopped because they are young, male and darker skinned. I applaud the few MPs who are looking for explanations for the actions of young people who turn to terrorism. Just to keep repeating that you condemn terrorism gets us no further forward.
Pat Oddy, Yarm, England

D R Jeffries misses the point. Police operations have to be intelligence led- e.g. suspicious behaviour/ surveillance based on actions and not upon perceived racial origins. Concentrating on darker skinned people who look Muslim will alienate many - not only Muslims. It will also allow any future terrorists activities to be freely committed by Caucasian terrorists.
Zac, London

This is yet another diversion on the main argument on how we stop these sorts of attacks happening again
Stephen Cuthbertson, Edinburgh
I agree that if the person is a suspect then they should be searched, regardless of race. I feel this is yet another diversion on the main argument on how we stop these sorts of attacks happening again. I am afraid that until these issues are addressed, the police can stop and search all they like; it is not going to stop terrorist attacks.
Stephen Cuthbertson, Edinburgh

Ms Blears might have spent her time in Oldham more wisely telling the council to take its head out of the sand and do something about community relations instead of the denial and hand-wringing that has been going on for the past 5 years. As she just spoke with Muslim leaders, what a wasted opportunity.
Magda, Oldham

Has it really come to this - allowing a minority of the population to dictate to our government who our police can stop and question? Here in the US, the police are respected and most law-abiding citizens will go out of their way to assist them in their job. The law must not be changed to suit certain people or groups.
Paul Anderson, Laguna Hills, CA

I am a Muslim living in London and have never really heard of any of these Muslim leaders or what they represent. Most Muslims are not interested in Westernised political figures posing with Blair, we cannot identify with them in a religious way. Muslims feel very real anger and desperation at the wars in Iraq and Palestine and will lean towards any leader who addresses these issues. For Muslims, the anger at international policies exists, but the method of addressing this is lacking; it becomes all too easy to be seduced by the violent solution.
Ibrahim, London

I think you should give the police some credit. If they stopped every Asian or person of Muslim dress they wouldn't be doing anything else. I think they are more than likely exercising their same reasons for stopping and searching as they normally do i.e. anyone looking suspicious.
Jacqui, Worcs

Ignorance breeds hatred which leads to violence
Tim Balmford, Nr Reading
Humans are so similar but our beliefs are so different. Understanding and teaching is the only way forward for humanity otherwise we will continually be at each others' throats. If anything can be put into place to teach people that we all bleed, hate, love and have white teeth and that we just need to show a little restraint when it comes to our beliefs that would be good. Ignorance breeds hatred which leads to violence. Greed and selfishness has become a major part in our society today and it will be the downfall of the planet if nothing is done.
Tim Balmford, Nr Reading

The community has to accept that the people who have undertaken the terror attacks look like them by race, colour and dress. They live in their community and blend in as one of them acting normally on a day to day basis. The Muslims who live in peace should have confidence that the search is a routine police duty that has been forced upon Britain by the bombers.
Mike Gray, Cyprus

I was stopped this morning at Kings Cross underground tube station and had my bag checked by a police officer. I was a bit embarrassed by it as people who were going about their daily business, were looking at me as the police officer went through the bag. I had no problem with it but people kept giving me horrified looks for the rest of my journey. Being a South African and of Portuguese descent, and slightly tanned, gave the officer the impression that I might look like a Muslim / terrorist. But then again, I'm not sure.
Steven, London

High visibility policing will reassure the community
G. Strangais, Cardiff
When I was 16-17 I was stopped and searched by the police on an almost nightly basis. Had I done anything wrong? No. Did I complain? No. I knew I fitted the profile of criminals operating in the area (young white men with shaved heads), and being stopped and searched in this way reassured me the police were acting in my interest in trying to prevent crime. OK, so it's a different kind of crime, but the principle remains. High visibility policing will reassure the community. Co-operating with stop and searches will reassure the community that you've got nothing to hide.
G. Strangais, Cardiff

As a Christian from India, I resent being stopped and searched three times a day as I travel around London merely because of the colour of my skin. I have already told my company that I refuse to carry my laptop or travel during commuter timings as being stopped and searched is extremely soul wrenching.
Girish, London

I am an elderly British female I have been stopped and searched at the airports recently. It is a vital necessity with the fear of more bombings. If you've nothing to hide why complain about it?
Margaret, Lancashire

You cannot tell the religion of a person by looking at them
David Evershed, Oxford
You cannot tell the religion of a person by looking at them. So Hazel Blears' comment that "people should not be searched just because they are Muslim" is meaningless. As a politician, she has knowingly made a statement calculated to please both sides - rather than being frank about the need to search those who meet the profile of the recent known bombers.
David Evershed, Oxford

The government announced two years ago that they would check passports of people leaving the UK. It started at Heathrow last week - after the bombs. Anything the Home Office says has to be questioned.
Peter, London

So the next time a description goes out of a white 40-ish, male, 6' tall villain goes out I take it the Home office minister will tell the police to stop an equal amount of black/Muslim/Asian/ etc just to make sure I'm not being unfairly discriminated against?
D R Jefferies, Norwich

Given recent events, it is reasonable for the police to target young Asian men for stop and search enquiries. As a young Asian Muslim I feel much safer on the underground knowing that the police are out in force. We must remember that our Muslim communities are being dragged down into the abyss by the actions of a minority of politically naive young men. As for 'Muslim community leaders' - I already have people representing me. They're in parliament.
Robi Ahmed, London

They need to avoid alienating other groups
Anon, UK
The government and security forces have got a lot right since 7/7. However, in addressing the fears of the Muslim communities they need to avoid alienating other groups - namely other faith groups and non-Muslim Asians.
Anon, UK

As a lawyer I am infuriated by this polical correctness which serves no other purpose than prevent the security services from carrying out their job. It is nothing to do with human rights and civil liberties. It is about preventing terrorist attrocities and crimes and to protect the lives and freedoms of the very people who seek to complain. The Human Rights Act does not say that the state cannot cause minor inconvenience or upset to its citizens!
Jonathan SG, Bath, UK

Of course people should not be stopped and searched just because they are Muslim. But in reality they will be because of the recent London bombs. It is to be expected.
TJ Newman, Bournemouth. UK

Full marks to Hazel Blears for wanting to help our Muslim communities stop feeling besieged, but she needs to inject a little realism into her view. If the major threat is from people who claim to be Muslims then Muslims will be profiled, stopped and searched. If Britain was threatened by a bombing campaign involving men in red T-Shirts then the Police would focus their attention on men in red T-Shirts, not men in blue T-Shirts and not men in red sweat-shirts. You put your effort where the threat is.
Hazel Blears might use her time better reminding community leaders that it is the bombers who have put them in this position and reassuring them that the attention being paid by the Police is not personal and will cease as soon as the threat eases. I think that most Muslims understand and accept this and are as keen to put an end to the threat as everyone else is.
David, Evesham, UK

Stop and search is one thing, detention until proven innocent is another
A.M., Northampton
I think most Muslims in Britain accept that there will be a certain level of profiling - it is only natural and to assume otherwise is probably political pandering. However, stop and search is one thing, detention until proven innocent is another.
A.M., Northampton

The Police should be allowed to stop whoever they consider to be a threat. If they have identified groups which are most likely to pose a threat, then they should be given the freedom to do their job and protect ALL of us. Ignoring this in favour of quotas due to political correctness means that their time is not being spent in the most efficient manner. I'm sure most Muslims would understand the reasons for this just as long as the Police are courteous and non-aggressive when they conduct a stop-and-search.
Nick, Oxford

She's right - we need help from the Muslim community to prevent future attacks and to catch those that would attack us. To victimise minority groups will alienate them further
Ed, London

Yet another vacant and vague statement by the Home Office Minister!
Colin Grant, Manchester, UK

There always needs to be caution when using powers of stop and search
Graham Ridler, Leeds
There always needs to be caution when using powers of stop and search, but there also needs to be a large dose of reality and a need to react to whatever situation which we find ourselves in. Good citizens would regard the use of these powers as a necessary evil to protect the safety of the population as a whole.
Graham Ridler, Leeds

I don't believe stop and search will prevent any further bombing. It will only affect the relationship between the Muslim community and the police. Our government must engage with young Muslim people in this country.
Tobi Impey, London, UK

I am a Muslim man. Hazel Blears has absolutely no idea the anger Muslims like myself feel at the moment as a direct result of her government's foreign policy. Blair and co only seem to talk to so-called Muslim leaders that I have never heard of. These rent-a-quote so-called leaders give out sound bites to the media. They do not represent the majority of Muslims in this country, particularly those deeply affected by the Iraq war - it is nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Because we are angry we are afraid to speak out in case we are labelled as terrorists or sympathisers.
Tariq, UK

Tariq claims that Muslims cannot speak out against the war in Iraq for fear of being branded a terrorist. What rubbish. A couple of million people of all religions and none marched against the war and everyone thought them peaceful.
Andrew, London

Muslim leaders to me are out of touch with their own youth. While they must be applauded for speaking out against extremism they must do more to find it and root out the people preaching it. In terms of stop and search I don't ever think you can remove the possibility of racial prejuidice. But as for preventing the youth being radicalised we need to do much more to help them find jobs, education and to show that you can be a devout Muslim and be a useful part of British society. It appears as though a large chunk of Muslim youngsters feel alienated by their own leaders and ours and that is not a good thing!
G, London





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