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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 February 2007, 16:59 GMT
Terror arrests on their doorstep
Dominic Casciani
BBC Home Affairs Correspondent

Another terrorism raid, another Muslim community in shock. At Alum Rock, the community woke up on a bright Wednesday morning to witness anti-terror arrests on their doorstep.

Police cordon
Several streets in the Alum Rock area have been cordoned off

Alum Rock is a relatively poor area east of Birmingham city centre. Most of its Asian residents come from a Pakistani-Kashmiri background.

The area has been changing in recent years with the arrival of Somalis and, in the last year, Polish migrant workers looking for cheap housing.

But amid the day-to-day business of solving local problems, they now have a much larger one.

At 0400 GMT, police from the Midlands counter-terrorism unit, a new police team based in Birmingham, with West Midlands Police officers and colleagues from the Metropolitan Police, raided 12 properties across the city. Two homes and a grocery shop in Alum Rock are among those now shut up.

Stick together

At the Alum Rock Islamic Centre, just a street away from the raid on the shop, local leaders said they had first heard of what happened on the news. But they said the key thing was for the community to stick together and support the police in their work.

Ayub Pervaz, president of the mosque, said that the committee had contacted local police chiefs as early as they could to propose that officers base themselves in the institution during the investigation to help ease any potential community tensions.

But at the same time he said the community wanted to see the wheels of justice turn correctly.
We do not want trial by media and that is what this community is most afraid of
Mosque president Ayub Pervaz

"If there has been a crime, the people who have done this should be brought to justice. But if they are innocent, then they should be exonerated and be seen to be exonerated.

"We do not want trial by media and that is what this community is most afraid of - that British justice used to be innocent until proven guilty and now it may be the other way around."

Shabir Hussein, another community elder, said that the public could not underestimate the fear of local people. He said that parents were worried sick about their young men and just wanted to do what they could to help the investigation.

'Parents are scared'

As Mr Hussein was being interviewed by the BBC, a van which was passing slowed. The driver hurled racist abuse at Mr Hussein, before driving on.

"Look at that," he said. "This is what we are dealing with because of what happens. Parents are scared. They want to work with the police.

"Parents are asking their sons who they are talking to, who they meet, where they go, what they are looking at on the internet. We are all being very, very vigilant but we never spotted or smelt anything like this in our area."

But according to one community source, there has been some frustration over the pace of countering the threat posed by extremist political groups in Birmingham.

One community worker told the BBC of previous running battles with Al Muhajiroun, a radical group that says it has disbanded, in predominantly Muslim areas of the city.

View between police officers of van on truck
Police outside a house in Jackson Road

Leaflets would go out, or stickers onto lampposts, promoting what most people would regard as extreme views. Local young Muslims, opposed to Al Muhajiroun's views, would tear them down.

"We found it difficult to get some people, including within communities and the authorities, to take this kind of thing seriously," he said. "People had their head in the sand as to what was going on. It makes it a lot harder to combat."

But other young men in the area said that the raid was another example of how Muslims in British society felt they were now being treated.

"I have a lot of white friends," said the man, who said he worked in forensic science. "But get on a bus now with a beard and a rucksack and you get the stares. I don't blame them, you know.

"It's all been so hyped up."

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