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Last Updated: Monday, 20 November 2006, 13:35 GMT
Terror hotbed theory 'unproven'
Dhiren Barot
Al-Qaeda plotter Dhiren Barot was not raised in a Muslim community
Muslims charged with terrorism are no more likely to come from areas perceived as segregated than other parts of Britain, researchers say.

A study at Manchester University found terrorism suspects had come from a broad range of areas, rather than just those with large Muslim populations.

The tentative report arguably contradicts theories that mono-ethnic areas are likely to breed extremism.

Academics compared home addresses of suspects with census data on ethnicity.

In their research, Dr Ludi Simpson and Dr Nissa Finney looked at 75 cases of Muslims charged with anti-terrorism offences between 2004 and October 2006.

They found that despite a popular perception that terrorism suspects linked to Islamist causes came from predominantly Muslim districts, they in fact came from a much broader range of locations.

MI5 CHIEF ON SCALE OF THREAT
Eliza Manningham-Buller
[We] are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1,600 identified individuals
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller. MI5 chief

The chances of a Muslim being charged with terrorism coming from an area such as Bradford, home to large British Pakistani/Kashmiri communities, was one in 25,000, found the research.

In comparison, the chances of a terror suspect coming from another part of the country with far smaller Muslim populations was one in 24,000.

Furthermore, the research into the 75 cases found that, if anything, Muslims charged with terrorism were most likely to come from districts with low proportions of Muslims, although the data remains extremely tentative.

"When politicians who want to tackle terrorism target ethnic minorities according to the area they live, it's a very destructive thing and not based on reality," said Dr Simpson.

"The authorities should focus on direct information about terrorist activities and not go by innuendo.

"Branding a particular are as a hotbed of terrorism is immensely damaging and creates prejudice and fear. It's just a fantasy."

Dr Simpson said he and Dr Finney had made a Freedom of Information request to the Crown Prosecution Service to acquire more accurate data on terrorism suspects and convicts.

Radicalisation

While the numbers of cases in the research may be small, Dr Simpson is a recognised expert in ethnic segregation and integration in British cities.

He is among a group of researchers who have disputed claims of rising levels of ethnic segregation in the UK. Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, is among those who have argued that Britain is "sleepwalking towards segregation".

At the same time, policymakers, Muslim thinkers and the security services are all trying to develop theories about how radicalisation occurs - with no clear consensus on how to tackle it.

Dr Simpson will be one of the key speakers on segregation at a major CRE conference into community relations at the end of November.






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