Police urged to take step back in ‘Little Algiers’ for Ramadan

[from Islington Tribune]

Islington Tribune – by ROISIN GADELRAB
Published: 15 August 2008

Mohamed Nacer

Police urged to take step back in ‘Little Algiers’ for Ramadan

Community leader urges officers to respect worshippers during holy month

AN ARAB cultural leader has called on police to take a more relaxed approach to Islington’s “Little Algiers” during Ramadan.
Mohamed Nacer, director of the Arab Advice Bureau on Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, wants officers to reduce the number of stop and searches and not to disturb groups of Muslims who gather in Blackstock Road during the month of fasting, which starts on September 3.
Blackstock Road was classed as a “dispersal zone” until September 26 after 600 police stormed the street earlier this year in one of London’s biggest ever raids carried out by the Met.
But borough commander Chief Supt Bob Carr insisted he will not be asking officers to stop looking for knives.
He said: “We will obviously recognise when Ramadan is on, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to be soft on crime or stop and searches.
“We recognise people will have gone for a whole day without food and may be a little more tetchy.
“The people who are stopped and searched in that area are not all Algerian or Muslim. My officers are aware of the sensitivities around people who are fasting and that they may be more excitable or volatile, but we’re not going to say we’ll stop looking for knives or gun. It’s a bit of a strange request.”
Mr Nacer said: “We want them to carry out stop and search as well as other visible operations only when necessary as opposed to random operations.
“We don’t want them to deter people from coming to the area because it’s a gathering place for Algerians during the holy month of Ramadan. We don’t want them to stop doing their job, but we’re hoping this will be an area of peace.”
Speaking on behalf of members of Finsbury Park’s Algerian community following a meeting held this week, he added: “We hope the holy month of Ramadan will be one of peace and tolerance and will see no further unnecessary and controversial police actions on Blackstock Road.
“This does not mean we are against targeting criminals. However, it can be done in a more accurate manner, taking into account the sensitivities particular to our community.”
Mr Nacer said the past months “have been punctuated by numerous police operations” and although some of those targeted “were involved in illicit activities”, he said “mistakes were committed and easily avoidable generalisations made”.
He added: “This has created a climate of mistrust and dangerous tensions between the authorities and many members of our community who felt alienated.”
Following the Blackstock Road Festival, which took place over the weekend, Mr Nacer said he wants to make next year’s event more of a celebration of Arab culture.
Chief Supt Carr praised Sunday’s event. He said: “We’ve turned a corner and we’re moving towards a crime-free area. It’s about Blackstock Road going forward.”


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