One of Britain's most senior police officers yesterday called for an independent judicial inquiry into the radicalisation of young Muslims in the wake of the July 7 London bombings.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the country's highest ranking Muslim officer, said Islamophobia in Western society had created a "generation of angry young people" who were vulnerable to extremism.
He said tighter anti-terror laws had indirectly discriminated against Muslims, while recent controversies over the Stockwell shooting and the Forest Gate counter-terror raid had eroded the "confidence and trust" of minority communities in the police service. In a keynote speech to the National Black Police Association conference in Manchester, Mr Ghaffur said Britain, its police service and the Islamic community had reached a "critical crossroad" in efforts to prevent the "flight, fight or separation" of Muslims in the UK.
The "overriding objective" had to be to stop another terrorist attack, he said. "Linked intrinsically to all of this, is the growing challenge of anger amongst young Muslims," Mr Ghaffur told the conference.
"Young people have developed a strong sense of connection with Islam. The cumulative effect of Islamophobia, both internationally and nationally, linked to social exclusion, has created a generation of angry young people who are vulnerable to exploitation.
"The simplistic anti-western messages of extremist organisations can be attractive to such vulnerable young people, advocating closed and hostile views of other religions."
Chief Supt Ali Dizaei, another senior ethnic minority officer with the Met, supported Mr Ghaffur's call for a judicial inquiry into the alienation of Muslim communities.
He said young Muslims were angry because they were missing out on jobs, because of Britain's foreign policy and because they felt unfairly targeted by anti-terror legislation.
"We know it's a problem but we don't know the extent of it," he said.
The Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees the work of the force, admitted stop and search was one of the most contentious policing issues.
"We share the concern of many people and groups in our communities about disproportionality which may suggest that stop and search is unfairly applied," a spokeswoman said.
Islamic community leaders warned that the Police Service risked further alienating young British Muslims unless more was done to tackle "institutional Islamophobia" in its ranks.
Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission and a member of the Home Office stop and search community panel, said: "We need to get rid of a culture that exists - unfortunately it exists in our society as a whole, but it is much more damaging when mixed with the powers the police have."