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Muslim leader meets MI5

April 19, 2004 15:26 IST

A British  Muslim leader and the head of MI5 have held talks about improving co-operation in the War on Terror, reports the Times, London.

'The meeting between Eliza Manningham-Buller, Director-General of MI5, and Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, follows anger at the number of Muslims arrested in recent months and fears among ministers of a backlash against British Muslims in the event of al-Qaeda attacks in this country,'  the paper said.

At the meeting, which took place before the Madrid blasts, Sacranie reportedly pointed out that the number of arrests was disproportionate to those convicted, and voiced concern over a perceived image of Muslims as fanatics.

MI5 officials reassured him that there was no deliberate targeting of Muslims in the country.

After the Madrid blasts, Sacranie had written a letter to imans of all mosques in Britain urging them to guard   "against any mischievous or criminal elements from infiltrating the community and provoking any unlawful activity," the paper said. But his appeal to the mosque leaders to liaise and cooperate with the  police had led to strong protests from the extremist factions in the UK.

"What Iqbal Sacranie has done is considered an act of apostasy - especially by encouraging Muslims to spy on other Muslims. To say that the names of Muslims who speak out in support of the struggle or the jihad should be given to the police or MI5 is an act of apostasy, and that is punishable in an Islamic state by capital punishment," the paper quoted  the UK leader of the radical al-Muhajiroun, Anjem Choudary,  as saying.

According to the Times, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the head of al-Muhajiroun recently told a Portuguese magazine that "There are many `freelancers' who are willing to launch operations similar to those by al-Qaeda. The attack in Madrid was carried out by one of those groups. Here in London there is a very well organised group, which calls itself al-Qaeda-Europe. I know they are on the verge of launching a big operation."