UK Muslims unite against controversial terror bill

Marwan Sultan in London , Thursday 29 Jan 2015

Muslims in the UK are united in challenging new anti-terrorism draft law amid warnings it will play into the hands of terrorists and increase Muslim alienation

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Mosques are feared to be obliged, according the anti-terrorism bill, to monitor visitors and report any “extremist” suspects to the Police

The Muslim community in Britain has escalated its campaign to drop the controversial anti-terrorism bill amid growing fears it will put the Muslims “under siege” and increase their alienation.

The British government introduced the bill to Parliament on 26 November. It is being scrutinised in the House of Lords after it has been through three readings in the House of Commons.

The bill  gives the police the right to issue ‘Temporary Exclusion Orders’, denying terror suspects the right to return from abroad for a period of time.

It also proposes granting powers to police and border officials to strip British citizens of their passports for up to two weeks without due judicial process on suspicion of extremism.

“Grievances against the state”

After it was made public in mid-November, human right groups and activists described the bill as draconian legislation, endangering deep–rooted civil liberties.    

Muslims are particularly concerned the bill makes it a statutory duty for bodies, such as mosques, universities, colleges, schools, nurseries, supplementary religious schools (madrassahs), probation services, prisons and local councils, to implement the Extremism Prevention Programme and report anyone suspected of involvement in extremism to the police and security services.

The impact of the implementation of the EPP, as stated by the Bill, will be “vastly counter-productive breeding the kind of alienation and grievances against the state that feeds the narrative used by radicalisers to prey on vulnerable victims,” the Stop the CTS Bill campaign warned.

The latest census estimated there are 2.8 millions Muslims in the UK, or 4.4 percent of the population, making Islam the second-biggest religion in the country after Christianity. It is widely believed that the UK is home to one of the most diverse Muslim communities in the world.

Campaigners have called on Muslim community members to sign a petition calling on Members of Parliament and Local Councillors to stand against the Bill.

“Civil liberties at stake”

The campaigners are Muslims activists from different ethnic and professional backgrounds, making the campaign an indication for unprecedented union among UK Muslims in recent years.   

"For those of who claim that da'wah, or educating our youth (Tarbiyyah) physical health, or mental health of our communities is the most pressing need at this time. Please believe that nothing is more important right now than stopping the passage of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, if you wish to continue unhindered in these activities,” they said.

“There has never been a piece of legislation more serious than this for the future of Muslims,” they added.

“When our civil liberties are at stake and the threat from extremism and terrorism still looms large, we turn to our elected representatives to act with moral integrity and reject draconian measures that will keep us neither safe nor free,” said the petition, signed by more than 3,000 people.

The Muslim Council of Britain joined the campaign, calling on parliamentarians to vote against it.

While expressing its commitment to challenge terrorism, MCB believed the government’s proposals (in the bill) will “curtail freedom”.

It warned such a move “will help, not hinder, those determined to commit acts of terror,” an MCB spokesman told Ahram Online.

MCB ridiculed the proposed role for public bodies, including nurseries and National Health Service trusts, in preventing extremism and terrorism.

It said such a duty “means in practice that nurseries, for example, will be expected to monitor, detect and report signs of extremism amongst toddlers if they are ‘vulnerable to be drawn to terrorism’.”

MCB is the Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella body with over 500 affiliated groups.

Dr Shuja Shafi,  the MCB's Secretary General, warned the proposed Bill will boost the “climate of fear and victimisation within the Muslim community, further weakening trust with public authorities.”

He point out that confronting terrorism is a challenge all British people face. But he added “for too long, successful counter-terrorism strategies have been thwarted by knee-jerk and ill-thought-through considerations.”

“The proposed measures will keep us neither safe nor free,” Shafi warned.

Other Muslim organisations are deeply concerned there is no clear definition of extremism.

They talk of the risks that the security officials, not the professionals, will be responsible for deciding whether specific behaviour or opinion is extremist or not.

Extremism definition 

Sir Peter Fahy, the spokesman of the Association of Chief Police Officers, once complained of how policy makers had left the definition of ‘extremism’ vague. As a result, he explained, ‘securocrats’ were left to define it themselves.

 Professor Peter Scott, head of the Institute of Education, University of London, commented that “these definitions will not only, and inevitably, be politicised but are also likely to be expandable and open-ended.”    

MAB warned that Islamic books for examples could be banned through back doors with the pretest of fighting extremism.

The Bill makes the government and security services the reference which define what extremism means and who or which action or behaviour is extreme,” Dr Omar Al-Hamdoun, MAB president, said.

“Ideas and thoughts could be shut down under the labels of extremism and the guise of preventing it,” he added.

Muslim fears have been also fed by “Stop and Search” powers which give police the right to stop and search people and vehicles if they suspect them.

According to the independent Equality and Human Rights Commission, those from Asian (mostly Muslims) or other ethnic minority groups were twice as likely to be stopped as white people.   

If we take into account how the police have misused the powers against Muslims, our fears and concerns about the Bill are legitimate, should be understood and dealt with, Al-Hamdoun said.

He believed there are strong forces supporting the Bill in the Parliament. So it till pass without listening to Muslim fears, feeding their strong feeling that they will be living for long time to come under the current siege, Al-Hamdoun said.

If the controversial bill is endorsed, this will be the 12th anti-terrorism act within last 15 years.

“Should this bill be passed, we believe it will similarly undermine trust and confidence in the belief in rights and justice on the part of the British State – as well the impartiality and trustworthiness of the judiciary, schools inspectors and the health service – all of whom will be expected to be part of Britain’s ‘thought police,’ Stop the STC Bill said.


 

  


 

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