The Home Secretary finally banned al-Muhajiroun and its front group Islam4UK yesterday. Personally, I support the move - but it's interesting to look at those who don't.
True to form, Inayat Bunglawala was straight out of the starting blocks yesterday writing a characteristically confused and rambling piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free website, the only outlet that will publish him these days.
Bunglawala dedicates most of his time to discussing the level of press coverage devoted to Islam4UK's most recent stunt, a planned demonstration through the streets of Wootton Bassett.
It really is not clear what he wants. First he tells us:
The ban should also raise concerns about the state of our freedoms in what we are often proud to call an open society.
Yes, but freedom is not unfettered - surely even Bunglawala can appreciate this? Later he states:
The appropriate way to deal with the actions of al-Muhajiroun members is surely transparently and through our legal system. If individuals are known to have incited violence then they should be prosecuted. But we should be very wary of giving our government the arbitrary power to ban entire organisations. It also sets a bad precedent.
Really, what precedent is that?
The whole point of banning entire groups is that it stops an organisational infrastructure from recruiting, mobilising, directing and inspiring those engaged in terrorism. Is Bunglawala seriously suggesting that the government should not ban any group because ‘it sets a bad precedent'?
Instead, we should wait until they do something - such as incite violence - and then prosecute them? Talk about locking the stable door after the horse has bolted!
His final thought is that:
It increasingly appears that, given sustained media scaremongering, many of us may be prepared to see the criminalising of dissent.
Got it? It's media scaremongering that we should blame for the poor boys of al-Muhjarioun being ‘criminalised for dissent'.
Bunglawala's article confirms what I long suspected - that he is either disingenuous or stupid. It is a possibility, I grant you, that he is both.
For once, Bunglawala was not alone. On last night's Newsnight up popped another group, ‘Islamix'. A quick glance at some of its personnel tells you everything you need to know about its political orientation: Robert Lambert and Jonathan Githens-Mazer both feature prominently.
Lambert is a former policeman who spearheaded the disastrous policy of empowering political Islamist's with the aim of using them as a bulwark against terrorism. Any suggestion of the interconnectedness and dynamic relationship that exists between political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood and actual terrorist outfits is lost on him altogether.
It is beyond his comprehension that groups like the Brotherhood share the ends - if not always the methods - of terrorists like those in al-Qaeda. To make it worse, the Brotherhood is not even consistent in its denunciation of violence. It supports suicide terrorism in Israel and against allied forces in Iraq.
So what is ‘Islamix' saying about the banning of al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK?
ISLAM FOR THE UK (also known as Al-Muhajiroun and Hizb ut Tahrir) in the main consists of young Muslims protesting against the oppression and loss of innocent Muslim lives to western forces. All Muslims share in the pain of these losses, but it was widely felt that this march would trigger an unproductive negative reaction in Britain and conflict with Islamic teachings. Further, the enormous press coverage could have increased Islamophobia and fostered support for both the British National Party (BNP) and Islam4uk, two groups whose differing views are impossible to reconcile.
Islam4UK is whitewashed entirely as a group merely ‘protesting against the oppression and loss of innocent Muslim lives to western forces'. To make matters worse, Islamix supposes to know that ‘all Muslims share in the pain of these losses'.
Again, we are told that banning the group is a threat to civil liberties:
However, the right to march and freedom of speech are hallmarks of a civilised and democratic society.
Mohammed Khaliel, Founder of Islamix - the inclusive British Muslim/non-Muslim organisation - said, ‘Islamix believes the banning of ISLAM FOR THE UK, however misguided their cancelled protest, is a divisive over-reaction and disproportionate. Through a refreshing co-operation between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, the Wootton Basset controversy had been successfully and peacefully resolved. This superfluous government action may bolster underground support for ISLAM FOR THE UK and prove unhelpful to counter-terrorism.'
Yet, the ban on al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK is not based on some spurious opposition to a group that simply wants to exercise the right to free expression. Both have been a breeding ground for terrorists and those who support terrorist activity.
That is not a value judgement - it is a demonstrable truth. A number of their members have been jailed for terrorism offences.
In just one year, 2008, a total of six men from the organisation were convicted. The Crown Prosecution Service gives a summary of their offences:
- Omar Brooks: guilty of fundraising, contrary to Sec 15, Terrorism Act 2000; guilty of inciting terrorism overseas, contrary to Sec 59, Terrorism Act 2000. Jury unable to reach a verdict on encouragement of terrorism contrary to Sec 1 Terrorism Act 2000. Brooks was sentenced to four and a half years.
- Abdul Rehman Saleem: not guilty of fundraising, contrary to Sec 15, Terrorism Act 2000; guilty of inciting terrorism overseas, contrary to Sec 59, Terrorism Act 2000. Saleem was sentenced to three years nine months.
- Shah Jalal Hussain: guilty of fundraising, contrary to Sec 15, Terrorism Act 2000. Hussain was sentenced to two years.
- Simon Keeler: guilty of fundraising, contrary to Sec 15, Terrorism Act 2000; guilty of inciting terrorism overseas, contrary to Sec 59 Terrorism Act 2000. Keeler was sentenced to four and a half years.
- Ibrahim Hassan: not guilty of fundraising, contrary to Sec 15, Terrorism Act 2000; guilty of inciting terrorism overseas, contrary to Sec 59 Terrorism Act 2000. Hassan was sentenced to two years nine months.
- Abdul Muhid: guilty of fundraising, contrary to Sec 15, Terrorism Act 2000. Muhid was sentenced to two years.
They all got off much too lightly if you ask me.
Here is one of the men, Abu Izzadeen (aka Omar Brooks), preaching at Regent's Park Mosque:
Criticising American foreign policy is one thing. Actively calling people to Jihad for the purposes of imposing a repressive and theocratic Caliphate on Muslims and non-Muslims alike is quite another. Portraying Islam4UK and al-Muhajiroun as groups with an alternative and anti-war message is absurd. They are not anti-war. They are pro-war - and they support the other side.
That worldview is precisely what these groups promote. Liberal democracies are not just right to - but are obliged to - defend themselves against the horrors they want to realise.
Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.
Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London. He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon.
To contact the authors, click here
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