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Friday, November 21, 2008

Besieged Birmingham Muslims

CAIRO — Muslims in Birmingham, often considered the second city of the UK, feel imprisoned in their own city, with the very details of their lives put under a piercing microscope under the pretext of fighting extremism, a government-commissioned report concluded on Thursday, November 20.

"A number of respondents felt that the police and security services were watching their every move due to the focus on the Muslim community," Waterhouse Consulting Group, a leading management consultancy firm, said in a report cited by the Birmingham Post.

The group interviewed individuals and organizations across the city for an in-depth analysis of the government's 11 anti-terrorism projects planned under the Preventing Violent Extremism initiative (PVE).

Making its conclusion, the group warned that Birmingham Muslims feel virtually under siege because of the intense scrutiny imposed by police and security services.

The fear of being constantly monitored has affected Muslims' lives.

"They had to watch their every step, what they uttered, the clothes they wore, the people they associated with and the mosques they attended," said the report.

"Therefore, [they] felt imprisoned in their own city."

Britain has launched a £45m strategy to curb extremism following the 7/7 London terrorist bombings, with 200 projects in 70 towns and cities funded so far.

* Demonized

The government-commissioned report warned that Muslims feel demonized by the way violent extremism is routinely associated with Islam in the media and by those in authority.

"Central government and local authorities must understand the extent of the deep anger and concern among Muslims at grassroots level over the linkage of violent extremism with Islam," it read.

"This has helped to demonize and vilify Muslims in a climate where Islamophobia is already heightened."

Britain's two million Muslims have taken the brunt of anti-terror laws since 7/7.

They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.

A Financial Times opinion poll has showed recently that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.

A government-commissioned study has also found that a torrent of negative and imbalance stories in the British media demonize Muslims and their faith by portraying them as the enemy within.

The Waterhouse report said that even the name given by the government to the £525,000 year-long PVE program in Birmingham has alienated the Muslim community.

It suggested abandoning the Preventing Violent Extremism title for a "more acceptable phraseology."

For most Muslims, terms like the war on terror and Islamic extremism suggest targeting their faith rather than those with an extremist ideology.

The Foreign Office has already told diplomats and spokespeople around the world to stop using the controversial "war on terror" phrase, which is offensive to Muslims worldwide.

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