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It'd never happen to me or you, or would it?


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Well could it?

 

 

'If it can happen to me, it could happen to anyone'

 

 

One moment Mustafa al-Mansur was discussing anti-terrorism strategies with the police. The next he was in a cell, under suspicion himself. Now, released without charge, he tells Madeleine Bunting what his ordeal means for Britain's Muslims

 

Tuesday January 30, 2007

The Guardian

 

Six weeks ago, Mustafa al-Mansur heard a knock at the door at six in the morning. It was the beginning of one of the less pleasant episodes in the young businessman's life. Arrested on suspicion of terrorism activities, he was not allowed even to say goodbye to his wife and three-year-old son. Taken from his home in Edmonton, north London, to Paddington Green high security police station, he was strip-searched and questioned for seven days on every aspect of his life: the state of his marriage, what kind of food he ate, what sports he played, the meaning of text messages on his phone, his use of the internet and his beliefs.

 

He sat listening to the barrage of questions, bewildered by the connections the police were making. Meanwhile, his flat and office were searched, as was the house of his elderly parents. His friends, associates and siblings were questioned about what they knew about al-Mansur.

 

At the end of the week, he was released without being charged - and without any explanation for his arrest. He returned home, and has been trying to put his life back together ever since. The police still have his laptop, mobile phone and wallet, which means he has lost all his contact details for friends, family and business, although he believes they will eventually be returned. He has no bank cards, so he cannot withdraw cash; replacing the cards is difficult because he has no ID; and until only a few days ago, when the police finally returned his business files, he was being harassed by Customs and Excise to fill out his VAT forms.

 

The point about al-Mansur's story is that the experience he recounts has now become a regular occurrence, especially in the Muslim community. Since September 2001, 1,113 people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Only 38 have been convicted, 12 of them Muslims.

 

Al-Mansur says he was not badly treated, and he understands the police have to do their job - but he believes they are being put under too much pressure to deliver results. This can only damage relations with the Muslim community, with arrests reverberating around neighbourhoods, families and friends, prompting mistrust of the police and increasing insecurity. This was particularly true of Mustafa's arrest because he and his older brother, Ajmal Masroor, are both well known for their work on community relations and regular appearances on Islam Channel, a television station. Only a week before al-Mansur was taken to Paddington Green station, he was sitting with the Metropolitan police's Muslim contact unit discussing anti-terrorism strategies.

 

"Everyone is thinking, if it can happen to Mustafa, it could happen to anyone," says al-Mansur. It only confirms the constant state of anxiety in the Muslim community, adds Ajmal.

 

Meanwhile, al-Mansur is left questioning whether he can be really sure that there is a future for him and his family in this country. "Suddenly there is a sense of insecurity," he says. "Is it worth staying here as the political climate seems to spiral out of control? I'm not sure where I'd go. The police and government seem only to be destroying all the efforts made by Muslim leaders to build better community relations."

 

In many ways, al-Mansur, 30, is a model of the kind of immigrant integration success story that British politicians love. His father arrived in 1959 and worked as a porter, then in Bradford textile mills and, finally, as a tailor in the East End to provide for his six children. Al-Mansur himself clocked up a degree in electronic engineering before becoming a consultant and running his own start-up companies.

 

He spent his spare time working on community issues, preaching in mosques and researching policy on disaffected youth and drugs. He helped set up a thinktank, Mosaic, to help provide policy research to leaders of Muslim organisations. He got drawn into meetings with the Foreign Office and several local police forces on how to deal with radicalism among young Muslims.

 

But none of these good works counted for anything once al-Mansur was inside Paddington Green, where he was subjected, like any other terror suspect, to the small indignities and boredom of life behind bars. The most trivial of details in his life became the basis for suspicion. The police interrogating him wanted to know who had texted him, "We're back, get ready for massacre"; the answer was a playful brother angry over a lost business contract. They wanted to know why there was a business card from an explosive sniffer dog company in his office (he shares it with his younger brother, who runs an events and security company). They wanted to know why a few telephone numbers on al-Mansur's mobile were also on the phones of terror suspects picked up in connection with August's alleged airline bombing plot; one was for a charity called the Human Relief Foundation.

 

"It was like a mind game," al-Mansur recalls. Confident that he had nothing to hide, he says, he remained calm.

 

After several days of questioning, it became clear why al-Mansur had been arrested. He was shown a book entitled IED (improvised explosive devices). It was an American manual and he dimly remembered seeing it before. "It was about 1995," he says. "I was 17 or 18. I met a man at a mosque in Clapton, east London; he was involved in a Bosnian humanitarian organisation, and over about six months I saw him a few times. On one occasion, he took me to the flat of a friend of his and that's where I saw the book. I picked it up, skimmed through it and put it down. That was all. The police said they had found the book in a box in an attic and they found six fingerprints of mine on the book."

 

Al-Mansur's fingerprints were already on the police database from an earlier, unrelated incident and the police were swiftly able to establish a match.

 

Al-Mansur's experience has prompted many of his friends to examine their own pasts: what tiny detail from their lives could re-emerge and land them in Paddington Green? Who might have been in the same room, at the same meet- ing back in the 90s? What piece of literature could they have picked up that might still be lurking in a forgotten box of junk in their attic?

 

The family was deeply shocked by his arrest. "We even doubted our brother - how well did we know him? My father was calling me every hour, asking the same questions: 'How could my quietest son have been arrested?'" says Ajmal.

 

Even now, al-Mansur's 78-year-old father, Mokbul Hussain, seems bewildered by the incident. A deeply devout man who spends much of his day travelling back and forth to his local mosque to pray, he has developed a strong respect for Britain in the 48 years he has been here. He prides himself on having brought up his six children to be good Muslims with a strong social conscience and commitment to the community. He has no television and has no understanding of world events; he does not even know the phrase "war on terror", let alone how it could have touched his family. "This incident has been very unsettling and disturbing," he says. "I've felt comfortable and happy in this country, but this episode has left a bitter taste in my mouth."

 

Al-Mansur himself says he will resume his voluntary work on community issues - even those projects that involve co-operating with the police. He says he is trying to deal with the episode constructively, but both brothers are well aware that the arrest calls into question everything the family has been trying to achieve over the past half-century ·

 

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Not to me

 

Ah, but what happens if the current administration manage to firmly establish government right to hold people without trail, convict people without jury and swoop on someone's house to whisk them away without justification then later on some commieliberalsocialist party gets in and uses the same powers to raid your house with a platoon of PC Thought Police and bang you up because they feel you're all right-wing, subversive and anti-revolutionary?

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Tough fukin shit tbh.

 

His prints were on a book about bombs, and plenty of other things connecting him to terrorists, what does he expect?

 

He was treated fine, and dealt with accordingly.

 

Only in the news as he's a Muslim (plenty of people gets arrested and harshly questioned over many crimes and they are innocent, its what they have to do, its their job), more Muslim tension, more Muslims now have a problem with the police of this Country.

 

Have they forgot how the police do things back in their home land or their father's homeland?

 

He wouldn't be walking the streets now selling his story to a newspaper thats for sure.

 

 

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Guest Gemmill

Tough fukin shit tbh.

 

His prints were on a book about bombs, and plenty of other things connecting him to terrorists, what does he expect?

 

He was treated fine, and dealt with accordingly.

 

Only in the news as he's a Muslim (plenty of people gets arrested and harshly questioned over many crimes and they are innocent, its what they have to do, its their job), more Muslim tension, more Muslims now have a problem with the police of this Country.

 

Have they forgot how the police do things back in their home land or their father's homeland?

 

He wouldn't be walking the streets now selling his story to a newspaper thats for sure.

 

 

 

I'm guessing his "homeland" is England.  I can see why the police put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5 in this instance, but I can also see how this bloke would be aggrieved about it, and I reckon he's perfectly entitled to put the story in the public domain.

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Tough fukin shit tbh.

 

His prints were on a book about bombs, and plenty of other things connecting him to terrorists, what does he expect?

 

He was treated fine, and dealt with accordingly.

 

Only in the news as he's a Muslim (plenty of people gets arrested and harshly questioned over many crimes and they are innocent, its what they have to do, its their job), more Muslim tension, more Muslims now have a problem with the police of this Country.

 

Have they forgot how the police do things back in their home land or their father's homeland?

 

He wouldn't be walking the streets now selling his story to a newspaper thats for sure.

 

 

 

I'm guessing his "homeland" is England.  I can see why the police put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5 in this instance, but I can also see how this bloke would be aggrieved about it, and I reckon he's perfectly entitled to put the story in the public domain.

 

Why i said father's homeland as well. Some Muslim see their father's homeland as theirs even though born here, some are proud that its this Country.

 

But either way my point stands.

 

Of course he feels aggrieved, but shit like this happens, and is going to happen more often. If the Muslim community opened up and stopped harboring terrorists then this Country wouldn't have to be so bullish in an interview room.

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Agreed. Not sure I believe this bloke's version of events entirely though either.

 

Aye, fingerprints from 10 years ago.

 

probably last year, hidden in the loft for raids.

 

But its the kind of thing people have lying about on their coffee table for people to skim though.  :rolleyes:

 

The fact he knows people like this is enough for questions to be asked.

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Guest optimistic nit

i tell you now if i was a muslim i'd be off into me shed and burn all the fertiliser i've been stockpiling faster than you can say toonstaylorwhatthefuckareyoutalkingaboutlyke :uglystupid2:

 

 

 

 

if its within the law to arrest without charge (or even hints to what the charge is) a man for 7 days on the basis of 10 year old fingerprints and a couple of phone numbers then how can TT take the highground about what the police do in muslim countries.

I can understand why this series of coincidences can make someone a suspect, but this heavy handed approach will get nobody anywhere.

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Tough fukin shit tbh.

 

His prints were on a book about bombs, and plenty of other things connecting him to terrorists, what does he expect?

 

What other things!?! List them.

 

I expect he expects to be treated in a manner befitting someone living in a supposed "civilised" country.

 

 

He was treated fine, and dealt with accordingly.

 

Only in the news as he's a Muslim (plenty of people gets arrested and harshly questioned over many crimes and they are innocent, its what they have to do, its their job), more Muslim tension, more Muslims now have a problem with the police of this Country.

 

Remember the IRA? Ever heard of the Guilford Four, or the Birmingham Six? and so-on. Were they in the news because they were Muslims? Obviously not, because they were Catholics. This bloke's in the news for similar reasons as them - although not on the same scale - because he's been treated badly by the state. What were you saying in the 70s, 80s and 90s when Irish people were getting loads of shit from the police and the state in general? Did you show as little understanding towards them, as you do towards the Muslims now? If not, why not? I remember the public being a lot more sympathetic towards the Irish then, than they are towards the Muslims now. Yet, if you look at the facts, you'd see that the threat from Irish terrorism to the UK was much greater than the current threat from Islamic terrorism. The UK is a state that portrays itself as fair and just, and believes that to the extent that it sees no issue with imposing it's "standards" on the rest of the world, by force if necessary. If the UK is going to talk the talk, it should walk the walk, this story, and many others like it, show that it isn't doing that.

 

 

Have they forgot how the police do things back in their home land or their father's homeland?

 

He wouldn't be walking the streets now selling his story to a newspaper thats for sure.

 

 

This is totally irrelevant to anything at all.

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fair enough if the police have made mistakes then speak out about them, i'm pretty pissed off with how they've dealt with things for myself. However there is some dodgy things that needed to be investigated and like any case you have to question any links if you are going to achieve accurate results. It all seems like a very suttle piece of propaganda to me.

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