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CAIRO — Many infuriated Muslims are considering leaving the United Kingdom feeling increasingly unsafe and targeted following a high-profile raid in east London, which risks alienating the minority, a leading British newspaper reported on Tuesday, June 6.
“We are angry and we are scared. It’s a case of shooting first and asking questions later,” Mohammed Azhar, a Kashmiri Briton who owns a furniture shop in east London where the police raid took place, told The Independent.
“It’s day four and where’s the evidence? They can say anyone is a terrorist,” he complained.
Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, who was shot in the shoulder, and his brother, Abul Koyair, 20, have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in a terrorist chemical plot in a raid carried out by 200 policemen.
Both have vehemently denied involvement in terrorism.
“People feel unsafe and are thinking ‘we should go’, and these are people who have given a lot to this country. They have worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Azhar.
Senior counter-terrorism officials told The Guardian Tuesday that the intelligence that led to the raid was wrong and based on a single apparently uncorroborated source.
Police have already endured almost a year of harsh criticism, including accusations of a cover-up, since officers gunned down an unarmed Brazilian on a subway train suspecting him to be a bomber.
Muhammed Ahmed, vice chair at the mosque of Forest Gate where the raid happened, said the 1.8 million minority felt “terrorized” after the raid.
“The public does not feel safe. It feels terrorized and [some] are thinking of going home, even if they were born here.”
He stressed that police need to improve their attitude towards and relations with the Muslim minority.
“Action like this creates hatred for police.”
Muhammed Abdullah, 50, fled violence in his home country of Somalia to face uncertain future in Britain.
“I am scared for my children. I am scared for my people,” he said.
“I came here to escape violence and persecution and guns, but it is here on my door. It’s unfair. I came here to be safe but no one is safe here now. Everyone is at risk.”
Many Muslims warned that the incident would fan hatred among the minority and that that “trust could break down” if police failed to explain last Friday’s high-profile raid.
“The [police] are making hatred grow. In trying to solve the problem, the police and government are creating more of it,” Faruk Khan, 32, who owns an Islamic gift shop, told The Independent.
Sharaf Mahmood, 23, a Labour councillor in the borough of Newham, criticized the lack of police transparency after the raid.
“People’s anger and frustration will bubble up to the surface and this should not be allowed to happen. The Forest Gate community is very mixed and full of very nice people. The longer these questions will go unanswered, the longer these feelings will rise in the area,” he cautioned.
“I’m feeling quite annoyed that there’s been no communication to make them feel comfortable and safe.”
The Muslim Council of Britain’s new leader Muhammad Abdul Bari said police were under pressure to clear up the confusion over the mass raid.
“Angry people can do anything, angry people can even feel that they should take the law into their own hands, so anger has to be directed into positive action,” he warned in a statement on Tuesday.
“People want to know what exactly happened and about the intelligence — is it genuine information, is it flawed — these are the questions police have to answer as soon as possible,” Abdul Bari said, relaying the sentiment that he heard during a visit to the targeted east London neighborhood Monday.
Others voiced concerns that police would go on picking up Muslims randomly without any evidence whatsoever.
“The way the police conducted this raid is nonsense. They should have done their job properly,” said Jaffer Khan, a military officer who emigrated from Afghanistan.
“The police should now provide some evidence to suggest these men did something wrong to prove they are not racist.”
Saeed Butt, who immigrated from Pakistan to Britain 40 years ago, told The Independent all Muslims in Britain are now targeted.
“Now I feel that anyone can wake up in the night and have their house raided. The intelligence needs to be 100 percent if they are going to do what they did on Friday,” he said.
Aysha Qureshi, a 27-year of Pakistani origin, feels more and more insecure about going out.
“I think they are just picking on anyone randomly. They haven’t produced evidence to suggest otherwise,” he said.
“I have felt more and more insecure about going out by myself as an Asian recently. I am called ‘Paki’ and I feel unsafe because of the color of my skin.”
Amina Begum, a London-born GCSE student of Bangladeshi origin, said her Muslim peers in schools find themselves in a grip of fear.
“I’m sure [the police] had a reason for raiding the house but it’s the fact that they have not found anything. It has made people scared because they think their house may be next. Some boys at school are really angry,” said the 16-year-old.
The Times ran a letter from a Yusuf Patel who said he lived in the Forest Gate area where the raid happened.
“Most people I have spoken to believe that these raids are designed to create fear within the Muslim community. If that is the case, it is working,” he said.
“The sensationalism of the press, coupled with the heavy-handedness of the police and the unwillingness of the community leaders to provide a strong response to the rumor mill will further the alienation of Muslims in the local area,” he warned.
Andy Hayman, the Metropolitan Police’s assistant commissioner for specialist operations, admitted that so far officers had not found the specific item they were looking for.
The Daily Mail quoted one unnamed security source as saying that during the four-day search of the pair’s house “the most dangerous thing we have found is aspirin.”