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Byline: Terri Judd
It was before dawn when members of Birmingham's Asian community awoke to the sound of smashing glass and splintering wood as anti-terror police broke into 12 addresses across the eastern districts of their city.
Outside the blue-a n dwhite police cordons, locals gathered to stare with a mixture of bafflement and horror as forensics officers combed through the properties. Many expressed amazement that apparently upstanding members of the community had been a rrested. As the details of the alleged plot to target a Muslim in the British armed forces emerged, shock turned to bewilderment.
Anxiously, localsinsisted that they were as horrified by the work of terrorists as any otherBritish nationals, that Islam was a religion of peace and that they would never condone violence in the name of faith.
A community which six years ago, before the September 11 attacks, was largely left in peace, famed for its diligence and law abiding nature, was again associated with terrorism. Wearily Muslims,Hindus and Sikhs alike voiced their fears of abuse to come.
"It is bad for the whole Asian community," said a 58-year-old Sikh accountant. "The minority gives the majority a bad name."
"We are not against joining the British Army," said Zaheer Iqbal, 27, a shopkeeper. "It is entirely up to the individual. It is a good thing, an honest job. We do not believe in hurting anyone innocent."
Undoubtedly religious fervour has gripped many of the disenchanted youths of the area. Naji Gohel, 64, said he was appalled to watch young Islamic men hurl abuse recently at women entering a nearby Hindu temple. "It is not Islamic," said the 64-year-old, who arrived from east Africa 35 years ago. "People who live here must respect the law. If you want Islamic law: go back home. If you want that type of government, why are you here?"
But even young men who expressed their ferocious opposition to the war in Iraq and the deaths of Muslims, remembered with solemnity the sacrifice made by L/Cpl Jabron Hashmi, who died in Afghanistan in July last year. They spoke of their pride in the young man - one of just 330 Muslim personnel in the British forces - who became the first of their own to be killed in the "war on terror".
Wajid Ditta, 22, said he would certainly counsel any friend considering joining the military to think again but balked at the idea that to do so would make him a "collaborator".
"Personally I would advise against it because we all know that in war, innocent civilians are killed. But if these people do not agree with Muslim soldiers fighting against Muslims in Iraq, they should have a dialogue - talk to them," he said.
"Some people would agree with joining the Army and some would not," said 16-year-old Anees Ahmed. "I would be happy with anyone who joined, I would think it was a good thing for a young man. Why attack another Muslim? If he is British, this is his country and if he wants to serve his country that is good."
Many expressed horror that they might be associated with extremists.
In the Asian communities of Sparkhill, Washwood Heath, Kingstanding and Edgbaston - where eight people were arrested in raids and a ninth was later detained on a motorway - the community shuddered at the ramifications. Officers searched residential homes, two bookshops, an internet cafe and a shop.
Abid Hussain, woke as police raided an address in Jackson Road, Alum Rock, and arrested a man. "I was woken by a bang," he said. "I thought there had been an accident. I looked into the street and saw eight or 10 police in the street and more rushing into the house. I don't think they were armed but some were wearing black suits. At about 5am, they took someone away."
Fullah Bahakam, a mother-of-three who lives yards from the scene of araid in Poplar Road, Sparkhill,said: "We don't like this problem. Why do they [alleged terrorists] have to do this here? Everybody will think we are terrorists. Muslims do not like to harm anyone. We are really worried something will happen to us now. We just want to live in peace."
A city multifaith organisation called for calm. Adam Yosef, chairman of the Saltley Gate Peace Group, said: "As communities very diverse in their nature, the arrests will come as a great shock for the people of Alum Rock and Sparkhill but we must remain united and work with the police in rooting out any extremism and threats within the community - regardless of race or religion."
Others were more worried that radicals in their midst would only serve to influence their young.
Shabir Hussain, chairman of the Ludlow Road mosque, said: "People don't trust their own children any more. It's causing difficulties inside families. Yo u feel like you should challenge your son or daughter: 'Where are you going at night? What are you watching on TV? What are you doing on the internet?' After this kind of thing, 100 per cent of families are worried."
At 4am 12 addresses - four buisnesses and eight homes - were raided in the Sparkhill, Washwood Heath, Kingstanding and Edgbaston areas. Eight men were arrested.
An Islamic bookstore called Maktabah, in Stratford Road in the Sparkhill district was raided. An address in Poplar Road, Sparkhill, was also searched. It is believed to be linked to the bookstore.
Baswant Kant, who lives in Stratford Road, near the junction with Poplar Road, said about 55 police officers " turned up in white vans" in the early hours. "They went into shops and restaurants along the road -a lot of people got arrested," he said.
Khan General Store, on the corner of Foxton Road and Jackson Road was raided. A man believed to be linked to the shop was arrested.
A man said his cousin was one of the men arrested in Jackson Road in Alum Rock. "We can vouch for him he is innocent. He doesn't even have time to go to Friday prayers -that's how busy he is."
A mobile phone supplier and internet cafe, ' Blade Communications', was also searched by the police
At about 3.30pm police announce they have just arrested a ninth suspect in a vehicle on the motorway near Birmingham city centre.
According to the latest figures, between September 2001 and 30 June 2006 1,047 people were arrested for offences under the Terrorism Act, and the number will have risen since then. Of those, 174 have been charged with non-Terrorism Act offences, 69 have been detained and dealt with by the Immigration Service and 158 have been charged with terrorism offences. More than 90 are awaiting trial or are on trial over terrorism-related offences.
Police raid house in Wood Green, north London, in which ricin is said to be found. Seven north Africans arrested. All but one is cleared. One man, convicted of murder of police officer during arrest, is found guilty on ricin plot charge.
Seven arrested after police raid Finsbury Park mosque, north London. Cleric Abu Hamza later convicted of soliciting murder and racial hatred.
Troops deployed at Heathrow after intelligence that Islamists have smuggled portable antiaircraft missiles into Britain. No arrests.
A man arrested in Gloucester, on suspicion of having links with al-Qa'ida. Charged with conspiring with 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid and convicted of terrorism offences.
Eight held after half a ton of fertiliser found in Hanwell, west London. Charged under the Explosive Substances Act. On trial.
Intelligence agents in Britain and US foil alleged chemical bomb plot in Britain. Intended target was believed to be London.
Ten arrested in Manchester raids over suspected bomb plot. Three released without charge, and six released but rearrested for other offences. One deported.
Many arrested over Tube and bus bomb plot in London. Four on trial at Woolwich Crown Court. Two trials involving 11 other people on related offences due to take place this year.
Ten arrested in West Midlands, London and Derby on suspicion of terrorism. Five released, five questioned in immigration inquiry.
Raids on houses in Forest Gate, east London, lead to two brothers being arrested, one was shot in shoulder by police. Later released without charge.
Police investigating aircraft bomb plot raid homes in Walthamstow, east London and High Wycombe. 24 arrests, 17 charged with terrorism-related offences. Awaiting trial.
Raid on Chinese restaurant in south London and search of Islamic school in Crowborough, East Sussex; 14 arrested and 10 charged with terrorism offences. Awaiting trial.
Two arrested in Halifax, West Yorkshire. Due to appear in court next week.
Source Citation:"Birmingham's Muslims fear reprisals after anti-terror raids.(NEWS)." The Independent (London, England) (Feb 1, 2007): 6.