ERICTOUREM -Contributing Writer-
(FinalCall.com) – On July 22, in Brixton, London armed police officers forced their way into the United Kingdom headquarters of The Nation of Islam. Armed with a warrant under the provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, the officers pried open shutters and smashed the doors of the mosque entering its sanctuary.
“I received a phone call from a supporter of ours that the police had broken into the Mosque,” began UK Representative of the Nation of Islam Hilary Muhammad. “When I got there I saw that the shutters were breached and also the door was crushed in,” he told The Final Call.
“When speaking to the officer, he said they had particular intelligence of a cannabis (marijuana) factory and raided the place next door to ours. They came out he said because they didn’t find anything, but the sergeant in charge of the operation decided to do, since our building was next door, he took it upon himself to say, ‘we are going to go in there next.’ ”
That officer, Sgt. Burgess, and his men entered the mosque at that point, unaware according to police officials that they were entering a house of worship, although there is a large sign on the side of the building as well as a separate mail box clearly marked Muhammad Mosque.
“I saw the riot vans and at first I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It would be like seeing your local church raided by police. I don’t see how they mistook a mosque for a drug factory,” said Layf Shakur, 40, a frequent visitor to the mosque.
“They completely smashed the door of the mosque down,” an unidentified witness commented. “It’s wrecked and they will have to pay for a new one. It was lucky it was not prayers at the time or the place would have been packed.”
The warrant was obtained from Camberwell Green Magistrates Court by PC Julie Lyons, an officer of Brixton Police station. It instructed a search of the premises, 1-5 Hinton Road SE24 “in relation to any items for the cultivation and any drug paraphernalia in relation to the illegal growth & supply of drugs,” it read.
The mosque address of 1-5 Hinton Road, Brixton, London SE24 is registered with the city and known as a house of worship.
According to a summary of events provided by the mosque, Sgt. Burgess said he reached to the top of the stairs of the building, when he realized, that the building was a religious house of worship. He said he then “instructed his men” to proceed with the search for drugs and not to force any locked doors open, but to enter any unlocked rooms and to smell for any cannabis that may be on the property.
It was fully explained to the Sgt. and the officer who obtained the warrant “that Brixton Police and other intelligence agencies in this country are fully aware that The Nation of Islam premises are situated at 1-5 Hinton. Brixton officers have been in the building to attend our community events in the past and they are fully aware of our existence, purpose and location,” Min. Hilary Muhammad said.
Later that evening, mosque officials met with Paul Wilson, superintendent with Safer Neighbourhood and Community Cohesion, and David Mcfarlaine of the Black Police Association, both of whom were very apologetic for what had happened, said Min. Muhammad.
An additional meeting was held on July 23 with Chief Superintendent and Borough Commander for Lamberth Nick Ephgrave, at Brixton Police Station. Mr. Ephgrave said he was very concerned, calling the raid “a terrible mistake.”
A formal letter of apology was provided to the mosque and read by Min. Hilary at a rally held that evening in front of the police station.
A formal complaint has also been filed by UK mosque officials demanding an independent inquiry into the break-in.
Compensation details for the building damages and repairs were not available at press time. UK Mosque No. 1 confirmed that no one was present in the building at the time of the raid and there were no injuries to report.
“I would like to apologize unreservedly to you for the upset and distress that this entry has understandably caused,” read the letter in part to the Mosque, from Mr. Ephgrave. “I would also like to make it clear that the intelligence that led the officers to search the adjoining premises was in no way connected with the Nation of Islam,” he said.
Min. Muhammad accepted the apology as sincere as far he could tell, but warned “rogue officers” who don’t share the view of higher ups’ need to be reined in. The officers need to be trained to deal properly with the Black community and those who fail to follow the directives of their superiors must be severely punished. He added that the Nation of Islam was looking forward to seeing how officers would be disciplined and how the matter would be investigated.