Muslims are not doing enough to help police crack terrorist plots, says Britain's top policeman
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Force Commissioner, says Muslims initially went into denial over the problem of terrorism. He believes that encouraging greater co-operation will be a "slow" and "delicate" process.
His remarks follow last week's warning from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, that more than 1,600 people in Britain are actively involved in plotting Islamic terrorism.
Sir Ian was speaking during a visit in Berlin, where he delivered a speech calling for an extension to the 28-day limit for the detention without charge of terrorist suspects. In an interview with the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, Sir Ian was asked how much help Muslims were giving to police anti-terrorist investigations. He replied: "We're getting more, but we're not getting enough."
He added: "The first reaction of the Muslim communities, as with almost every other immigrant community, is to withdraw and say, 'This is nothing to do with us.' This will be a slow process. It's an extremely delicate one."
A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said: "All Britons, regardless of their faith background, must fully co-operate with the police in protecting the safety and security of our nation. Our understanding is that the police have been receiving an increasing amount of help from British Muslims in this regard."
In his speech, Sir Ian pointed to opinion polls suggesting that between 40,000 and 120,000 Muslims in Britain believed that last year's July 7 London bombings, in which 52 innocent people died, were justified. He said it was shocking that the suspects in the alleged liquid-bomb plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, mostly young British-born Muslims, "were converted from what appeared to be ordinary lives — in a matter of weeks and months, not years — to a position where some were allegedly prepared to commit suicide and murder thousands of people".
The commissioner's comments follow a warning from Tony Blair in July that terrorism could only be defeated if Muslims were prepared to stand up and oppose what he called a "completely false sense of grievance against the West".
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