Socialist Worker

Birmingham terror raid arrestee: ‘We will not be divided’

Abu Bakr was arrested in the recent ‘terror raids’ in Birmingham then released last week without charge. He spoke to Mohammed Suleman from Sparkhill Respect

Issue No. 2038

‘I was born in Sparkhill in Birmingham. I went to college locally and then to Birmingham University where I got a degree in theology and a masters in education.

I’m 28 years old now, and am married with two kids – a six year old boy and a four year old girl.

I run an Islamic bookshop. There are 160,000 Muslims in Birmingham, and this is a growing community, which means a big market for Islamic books.

Most of my books are in the English language, which caters for young people born in this country.

Running the bookshop combines my two passions – business and reading.

I do a lot of youth work. I think young people can relate to someone like me, who’s near to their own age.

I’ve set up programmes to help counter drug problems among young people.

Before I was arrested I was often in meetings with police and councillors discussing how to get young people away from drugs!

I’ve worked with other young professionals – teachers, health workers and youth workers, to try to help our youngsters. The police and authorities are failing our young people, so we are stepping in to help.

About 50-60 officers raided my home – they were everywhere. My first fear was that this would be another Forest Gate – where police shot a man during a “terror raid” last year.

They didn’t knock at the door. The first I heard of them was my wife screaming – this was at 4am – then the police shouting my name.


They obviously want to avoid a big backlash from the Muslim community.

They made sure to send only female police officers into the bedrooms where the women were. Although most of the police officers were white, they made sure it was an Asian officer who read me my rights.

They told me that I had been arrested under the 2000 Terrorism Act.

In the police car I heard them call my arrest part of “Operation Gamble”.

That made me relax a bit, because I knew that I was innocent, and calling it “Operation Gamble” suggested to me that they knew they didn’t have much to go on.

While I was getting fingerprinted I saw the BBC footage of the arrests on a police computer. That was when I realised that this was more serious.

I was held for seven days, and was only questioned four times. They never mentioned any plot, or made any allegation against me.

After seven days the police wanted another 14 days to hold me. The judge refused it because they’d already had plenty of time and had hardly asked me anything.

Anyone who knows me knows the “plot” was lies. People have never trusted the police and this just makes it worse.

With any other crime you’d be charged within 24 hours or discharged. Just on suspicion of this you can be kept for 28 days and they want to increase it to 90 days. For no other crime can you be arrested on such little evidence.

There’s a lot of fear among Muslims. People think they could be having a simple conversation and that could result in them being raided, arrested and detained.

There’s a fear you could be arrested just for talking to the “wrong” people.

I think that as Muslims we – and others – have to be more active against the war and for our civil liberties.

I am loyal to my country and to my people. I would defend Britain if it was invaded.


But we’re not all being given the same rights within Britain. Muslims are dealt with differently by the state – we’re not treated equally.

Roger Godsiff, my local Labour MP, has been no use at all. He hasn’t been to see me and has offered no support.

I would say to youngsters who fear arrest not to be scared because of this. Fear is what the state want.

The struggle for our rights is one we’ll have to wage for years.

There’s a famous parable about three bulls and a lion. There is a black bull, a red bull and a white bull and a hungry lion.


The lion knows that he can’t kill all three bulls. He goes and talks to the red bull and the black bull. He says to them, “I’m hungry, let me eat the white bull, and I won’t attack you.”

They agree and the lion eats the white bull. Later the lion is hungry again and he goes to the red bull and says, “I’m hungry. Let me eat the black bull, and I won’t attack you.”

The red bull agrees and the lion eats the black bull. Later he is hungry again and eats the red bull.

As the lion attacks the red bull, the red bull says, “I died the day the white bull died.”

They’re trying to divide our community in the same way.

I’m really pleased that local Christian leaders have stood up for me. This affects the whole community, not only the Muslims.

We have to stand united. It’s more a class issue than a religious thing.

We need to unite the whole community to fight for justice.’

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Article information

Sat 17 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2038
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