August 15, 2006

Top Muslim policeman slams UK “terror profile” plan

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - A top British Muslim policeman has
warned that any moves to "terror profile" airline passengers
would create a new offence -- "traveling whilst Asian."

Media have reported the government is discussing with
British airport authorities a system of profiling -- where
security staff focus their search efforts on people they regard
as suspicious on grounds such as ethnicity and religion.

Such a move could spark outrage among Britain's Muslims but
aviation experts said profiling was vital to break the gridlock
at airports, in chaos since last week due to tightened security
after police said they foiled an Islamist plot to bomb planes.

Former British police chief John Stevens said airport
bottlenecks could be reduced by careful targeting, with "young
Muslim men" a focus.

Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Ali Desai, one of
Britain's top Muslim police officers, said of the plan: "What
you are suggesting is that we should have a new offence in this
country called 'traveling whilst Asian'."

"What we don't want to do is actually alienate the very
communities who are going to help us catch terrorists," he told
BBC Newsnight on Monday.

Sharply aware of the political sensitivities involved,
Transport Department officials have refused to answer any
questions on profiling proposals.

"Our security measures at airports are layered. Some
measures are visible. Others we are not prepared to discuss.
That plays into the hands of terrorists," a department official
told Reuters.

Many of Britain's 1.7 million Muslims accuse the police of
unfairly targeting their community in their crackdown on
terrorism after last year's suicide bomb attacks on London's
transport system by Islamist militants that killed 52 people.

Since 2000, police have arrested over 700 people -- many of
them Muslims -- under tough anti-terrorism laws but have
brought only a handful to court. The vast majority have been
released without charge.

Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim
Council of Britain, was eager to dispel a siege mentality,
saying "If you treat a community as a problem community, you
are not going to get support from them."

Asked what he thought passenger profiling might provoke, he
told Sky News: "It could end up in racism unfortunately."

"If the profiling is done on the basis of race and
religion, it will be wrong, it is not going to work."