Street unrest feared over terror arrests

Preparations to head off possible violence on the streets are being made in the wake of the alleged terrorist plot uncovered last week.

Talks are being held with local authority leaders in seven areas of England where it is feared tensions could boil over.

New measures to win over the Muslim community are to be considered as Islamic leaders predict protests. Yesterday a mosque was set alight in what police believe could be the first in a series of revenge attacks.

Ministers have scheduled meetings with leading Muslim organisations in which they will appeal for a united front against extremists. They are concerned by the public reaction of Muslims, amid evidence that many ordinary people are sceptical about the way the anti-terror operation was carried out.

Downing Street is also worried about the waning support of the most influential Muslim groups in Britain.

A statement signed by every leading Muslim organisation and placed in yesterday’s newspapers blamed British foreign policy for giving “ammunition to extremists”. It was signed by

36 organisations, including the Muslim Council of Britain, representing a further 400 groups.

The council said the letter was written in response to the Lebanon crisis, and it was coincidental that its publication came after last week’s arrests.

A spokesman said: “We published it because our government and the US are the only two that did not call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon.”

The full-page advertisement is likely to worry Tony Blair, who has ploughed millions of pounds into initiatives to reconcile Muslims since the terror attacks of July 7 last year.

Last night, the government said it would focus attention on five London boroughs — Newham, Hackney, Barking, Dagenham and Waltham Forest — as well as Birmingham and High Wycombe. All these areas were affected by last week’s raids.

Concerns have been stoked by the British National party, which held its summer rally yesterday and has a strong presence in several of the boroughs being monitored.

Nick Griffin, chairman of the BNP, called yesterday for all Muslims aged between 15 and 50 to be banned from flying and said there was “no such thing as a moderate Muslim”.

Further evidence of tension came early yesterday when fire crews were called to a blaze at Al-Birr Masjid mosque in Basingstoke, Hampshire. Police believe it was arson.

Leading Muslims have warned of trouble if last week’s anti-terror operation did not result in any charges.

Labour’s Lord Ahmed said: “The police on the whole have acted professionally and satisfactorily. But they must produce some evidence soon, otherwise people will not believe.”

Ministers are trying to balance the need to maintain calm with warnings of further moves against would-be terrorists.

John Reid, the home secretary, told police chiefs yesterday: “No one should be under any illusion that the threat ended with the recent arrests.

It didn’t.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-2310625,00.html

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