Police play down threat from far right

07:57 by Editor · 0 Post a comment on AAWR

The significance of the far right should not be “overplayed” after clashes between anti-Islamic groups and Asian youths, the head of Scotland Yard warned on Thursday.

Far-right protests in Birmingham, Luton and Harrow had caused distress to Muslim communities, said Sir Paul Stephenson, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, “and I anticipate further problems”.

But he said: “We’ve got to be very careful to keep the problem in context and not to overplay [the far right’s] significance and give them an oxygen that serves their purpose.” Sir Paul’s comments echo the assessment of senior intelligence officials, who believe the extremists pose less of a terrorist threat than dissident Irish republicans, in spite of increasing disquiet among Muslims.

Police expect more trouble in Manchester city centre on October 10, when the English Defence League plans the latest in a series of anti-Islamic protests. Running battles broke out in Birmingham in August between EDL supporters, including football hooligans, and Asian counter-protesters organised by Unite Against Fascism.

Sir Paul told the Metropolitan Police Authority the EDL and Stop the Islamisation of Europe were not viewed as extreme rightwing groups and could not be barred from protesting under the law that bans incitement to racial hatred. Nevertheless, “the concern to me is how groups like that either willingly or unwillingly allow themselves to be exploited by very extreme rightwing groups like the National Front and the British Freedom Fighters”.

John Denham, communities secretary, has likened extreme rightwing groups to Oswald Mosley’s fascist blackshirts of the 1930s, although levels of support are small by comparison. Mr Denham plans to adapt a Home Office strategy to prevent Muslim radicalisation to white working- class communities to halt the rise of the far right.

The government wants to ensure that young Muslim men do not feel “singled out” as it seeks to engage with them to stop a repeat of the July 7 2005 bomb attacks in London and the foiled plot to blow up airliners using liquid explosives.

A senior Whitehall official said the far right did not present as great a terrorist threat as al-Qaeda or Irish dissidents.

“It is a real concern within communities and we have to do something more about it but proportionately that is where we are,” said the official. “Police already devote quite a large part of their counterterror work to non-Islamist groups. I don’t think we need to beef that up.”

Lucy James, a research fellow at the Quilliam Foundation, a think-tank set up to counter extremism, said it was “not the time to panic”. But she said even small numbers of far-right activists could provoke disorder by targeting sensitive locations, such as mosques. continues here

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