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EDITIONS
Monday, 20 January, 2003, 15:23 GMT
Muslims concerned about mosque raid
The area was swamped with police
Muslims have given a mixed reaction to news of the anti-terrorist raid on the Finsbury Park mosque in north London.

Seven people were arrested as part of the operation, which police said was linked to the discovery of the poison ricin in nearby Wood Green earlier this month.

The mosque has frequently been in the news because of its connections to the radical Muslim cleric Sheikh Abu Hamza.

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said he was "appalled" by the raid but he also spoke out against Sheikh Abu Hamza.

It will increase Islamaphobia and it will fuel racism

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui

He said: "During a long campaign against the IRA we never had any churches being raided."

Mr Siddiqui said the police should have quietly approached the mosque's trustees "without all this need for drama to take place, with 150 police officers, helicopters, battering rams".

He said of the raid: "It will increase Islamaphobia and it will fuel racism."

But he said of Sheikh Abu Hamza: "This is not the first time that he has courted Bin Laden."

Dr Siddiqui said Sheikh Abu Hamza had a strong following at the mosque who had stayed with him despite the wishes of the trustees, who had brought in the Charity Commission to force him out.

Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was saddened by the raid.

He said details remained sketchy but he hoped police officers had not entered the main place of worship, especially with shoes on. That would be considered highly sacrilegious.

Mr Sacranie said: "One needs to be reassured as to what sort of clothing and footwear that was used."

A mosque is not a place for criminals to carry out illegal activities

Iqbal Sacranie
The Metropolitan Police have stressed that "the operation was not against the mosque itself or the many people who go there on a regular basis to pray".

They said: "It was aimed specifically at individuals who have been supporting or engaging in suspected terrorist activity from within the building."

The police said they had taken advice from a wide range of people in the planning of the raid and added: "We have done our utmost not to cause offence during the operation."

"We have taken every step possible to show our respect for the Muslim faith and to minimise the impact to those who use the mosque and the wider Muslim community," said the police.

They said they had not entered parts of the mosque used for prayer and had targeted offices and living rooms instead.

Mr Sacranie said: "We have very little details but if the main prayer place was not interfered with then it's just like [raiding] any other house."

'Poor police support'

He said: "One cannot condone any form of illegal criminal activity being carried out anywhere. A mosque is not a place for criminals to carry out illegal activities."

But Mr Sacranie said local Muslims had been raising concerns about the mosque with the police for several years and had not had much support from the police.

"What is worrying is that the people who have gone out fighting around the world have been arrested but the very perpetrators, the people who encouraged and incited them, no action has been taken against them."

Nadeem Chaudry-Ahmed, who lives near the mosque and occasionally worships there, said he was not happy about people worshipping in the mosque being treated like suspects.

David Blunkett is right. I want to fight against terrorism but there are other ways of tackling it.

Nadeem Chaudry-Ahmed
He said: "There were innocent people in that mosque and also because of the way it was raided. It was unprofessional."

Mr Chaudry-Ahmed, 24, said: "They did not find any ricin there and there are other ways of finding out if terrorists work from that mosque rather than raiding it.

"It is against Islam to raid a mosque like that."

He added: "David Blunkett is right. I want to fight against terrorism but there are other ways of tackling it."


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