Manchester Police Chief: We'll fight hate

Peter Fahy: hate crime unacceptable

Peter Fahy: hate crime unacceptable

The Manchester community must do more to meet the threat of antisemitism in a city where they are more likely to face abuse than anywhere else in the country, according to its police chief.

In an exclusive interview, Chief Constable Peter Fahy said individuals must be more proactive in reporting incidents, and pledged to increase police numbers on campus significantly to thwart attacks such as the one suffered by Israel's deputy ambassador at Manchester University last month.

Mr Fahy, 50, and two years into his job, said: "It's very, very clear, the level of hate crime towards the Jewish community is unacceptable. Stopping it is more of an issue of dealing with the causes of it.

"We are seeing quite a lot through ignorance, which turns into antisocial behaviour. Clearly, some people who do it have an ideological hatred towards Jews. That's worrying. We would like to do more to make sure events in the Middle East don't play out on the streets of Manchester. My message to the Jewish community would be to report issues to the CST, to be willing to make statements and continue the work of lots of individuals to strengthen community relations whatever tensions exist, so as not to inflame them."

Mr Fahy spoke as the latest CST figures revealed that Jews in Manchester have the highest chance of suffering antisemitic incidents, a third of which are described as far-right, Islamist or anti-Zionist attacks.

The Chief Constable expressed concern that Middle East politics top the agenda of those angry about Britain's foreign policies. Such anger has fanned the flames of radicalisation and, eventually, terrorist attacks on the UK. So far, however, Mr Fahy says that they do not presently appear to be aimed at Jewish individuals or establishments.

Mr Fahy, who has spent 30 years in the police, was vice chair on terrorism matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and its spokesman on race and diversity. According to the CST, he has kept up "an excellent rapport" with the Jewish community, nurturing the "friendship and operational relationship" made by his predecessor, Mike Todd.

The chief constable also believes that the solution to rising tensions must rest substantially with members of the Jewish and Muslim communities. He understands that increasing the convictions of those that carry out antisemitic attacks must sit alongside serious interfaith dialogue.

"We need the support of communities. We have had to deal with a really complex situation. In our communities there are some people who fundamentally disagree with our British foreign policy. We have to deal with that terrorist threat."

Mr Fahy is acutely aware that the threat of radicalised Islam lies closer to Manchester's Jews than many realise. North Manchester's Cheetham Hill, next to the largest Jewish community outside London, has been home to hardened jihadi terrorists in recent years.

Taxi driver Habib Ahmed co-ran an al-Qaeda terror cell and was found with bomb-making documents detailing explosives used to attack UJIA's London headquarters in 1994. Covert surveillance caught him in nearby Heaton Park, training for a suicide bomb mission. Another al-Qaeda suspect, Kamel Bourgas, was thought to be planning a poison attack on British streets and killed a policeman during a terror raid on nearby Crumpsall Lane.

Only yards from where these men lived is the largest Jewish school outside London, King David Manchester.

But Mr Fahy said, "King David isn't a security risk," and, praising the area's cultural diversity, he expressed the desire to see closer communal ties between the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Despite the two communities' proximity, they know little of each other. Only metres from King David school, in a new supermarket, Jews in kippot or black hats weave trolleys through throngs of traditionally garbed Muslims. Everyone keeps a polite distance.

There is potential here for trust to be built - but Mr Fahy understands why some Jews are nervous about their neighbours. In fact, recent counter-terror swoops on Muslim neighbourhoods and a government-sponsored, £140m anti-radicalisation programme with local Muslim youths suggest that their fears are not unfounded.

Furthermore, recent police raids on presumed terror targets in Cheetham Hill have ended in failure after 12 suspects were released uncharged.Former Lord Mayor of Manchester and ex-policeman Afzal Khan, who also co-chairs the Muslim-Jewish Forum, says failed terror swoops build negative stereotypes of Muslims in Jewish eyes, as well as reducing confidence in the police.

Mr Khan said: "I think the general Muslim community thinks the Israel issue needs to be resolved. They are not interested in Israel or Hamas or Palestine.

"After 9/11 we saw both sides are coming from a totally different angle. The Jewish side says 'now you know what we are putting up with'; the Muslim says 'now you know what wrongs have been done.'"

Lucille Cohen, Manchester Representative Council's new president, commented: "While there could
be movement in Muslim-Jewish dialogue about Israel I can't see any progress at the moment. But I would like to see it."

    Last updated: 3:25pm, May 27 2010