Ashfaq Ahmad was speaking at a conference in Tooting, south London, last Sunday to protest against harassment of Muslims by police.
Over 400 people, mainly from the local area attended. The conference was organised by Stop Police Terror, a grassroots campaigning organisation set up in the wake of “anti-terrorist” raids at the end of last year.
Speaker after speaker condemned the police, the government and the media for whipping up hysteria against Muslims and criminalising an entire community.
They called for a mass campaign to defend Muslims that reached out and forged political links with the wider anti-war movement.
Many drew parallels between their experiences and those of Irish and black people.
The atmosphere was angry but positive. The conference was also attended by trade unionists from Unison and the RMT, among others.
Unjum Mirza, political officer for the RMT in London, said he would try to mobilise support for the campaign from his union.
Many speakers condemned the recent wave of anti-Muslim hysteria in the press.
“Muslims have been the target of a poisonous campaign from certain sections of the media,” says Bilal Patel of Stop Police Terror.
“The scares have proven to be fiction time and time again. Yet the rumour mill is relentless and remains unchallenged.”
He singled out the Sunday Telegraph for special criticism. The paper ran a series of hate-filled tirades against Muslims in its comment pages throughout July, all written under a false name.
‘Time to get active’
Yusuf Mohammed, who is a lawyer representing inmates at Belmarsh detention centre, also attended the Stop Police Terror meeting. He urged people to get active and not to leave things to community leaders.
Sadiq Khan, a human rights lawyer, local Labour councillor and friend of the Ahmad family, noted how Muslims in Britain also suffer the worst housing, highest unemployment rates and poorest schooling in the country.
Sheikh Suleman Gani is an imam at the Tooting Islamic Centre. He spoke about the duty of Muslims to campaign against tyranny and human rights violations regardless of the race or religion of the people who are suffering.
He added that Muslims should work with other organisations such as Respect and the Stop the War Coalition to build the widest coalition possible against police violations of civil liberties.
End the scapegoating of Muslims
4pm, Friday 13 August
Home Office, central London. Meet at
St James’s Park tube, Broadway Street entrance
Called by Stop Police Terror and other civil liberties groups