Galloway rejects police non-cooperation call

Respect MP George Galloway last night distanced himself from calls by a member of his party for Muslims to stop co-operating with the police.

Activist Yvonne Ridley made the appeal to the Muslim community following the raid by 250 Metropolitan police officers on a house in east London last Friday.

One man was shot in the operation and subsequently arrested in hospital. His brother was also arrested, both of them on suspicion of terrorist-related activities, which they deny.

But concern is mounting about the reasons for the raid – although the Met said it had “specific intelligence” relating to some kind of chemical device at the Forest Gate house, nothing has yet been found.

Earlier this week, the new chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Muhammad Abdul Bari, warned: “Trust [between the community and police] could be an issue. Trust could break down if things are not clarified.”

And Ms Ridley told a meeting of the Respect party on Tuesday that Muslims should “boycott the police and refuse to co-operate with them in any way, shape or form”.

Her suggestion was condemned by the Conservatives as “sheer, undiluted madness”, which would “be of no benefit to the Muslim community, no benefit to the police, and no benefit to the security of our country”.

But last night, Mr Galloway told Question Time that Respect’s policy “is not that we should withdraw cooperation from the police”.

However, he warned: “You’ll be fooling yourself if you think that this feeling of [lack of] confidence in the police in London is not the prevalent feeling among especially young Muslims after a series of events.”

The Respect MP, who won the east London seat of Bethnal Green and Bow from Labour’s Oona King at the last election, is known for his outspoken comments against the war in Iraq, and has warned before of the alienation it caused among British Muslims.

He said the confusing messages coming out of the police in the wake of Friday’s raid in Forest Gate, which suggested that either the injured suspect was shot by police or by his brother, were not helping community relations.

“Lie after lie, day after day these young men have been incarcerated. There is no weapon, there is no plot, there is no al-Qaeda,” he said, noting that both men were still in custody.

He added: “That’s why young Muslims are already not co-operating with the police.”

Speaking yesterday, the Met’s assistant commissioner, Andy Hayman, apologised for any inconvenience caused to the Forest Gate community but insisted that anti-terror operations were not targeted at any specific group.

He acknowledged some communities “may be feeling confused or indeed, angry”, but added: “We are working tirelessly to target criminals who are intent on spreading fear and terror among us all.”