Yesterday, Home Secretary Alan Johnson banned Islam4UK in what seemed a knee-jerk reaction to their planned march in Wootten Bassett. Although the ban has come late and was quite clearly done with the upcoming election in mind, it is still the right move.
Up until now, Islam4UK (also known as al-Muhajiroun (AM)) has effectively been operating in a ‘legal bubble’, as they are no different – in terms of membership and ideology – from al Ghuraaba (AG) and Saved Sect (SS), organisations that were proscribed in 2006 under the Terrorism Act 2000.
This history of this group is a bit confusing, so bear with me. AM was the original name of the group after it splintered from Hizb ut-Tahrir under Omar Bakri Mohammed in 1996. It operated under this name until 2005, when Tony Blair announced that it would be banned. In response, the group disbanded before the ban and established two offshoots, SS and GG: both of which were proscribed in 2006. This is when things went wrong: after the 2006 ban the group changed names yet again, this time to Ahl ul-Sunnah Wa al-Jamaah (ASWJ). No action was taken against ASWJ even though its supposed leader, Simon Keeler, was imprisoned in late April 2008 for funding terrorism and inciting terrorism overseas. Keeler was joined behind bars by another ASWJ member, the particularly horrible Abu Izzadeen, who also went down for funding and inciting terror overseas. ASWJ then became Islam4UK and announced the ‘re-launch’ of AM in June 2009. Since then Islam4UK and AM have been interchangeable names for the same group. So, essentially this group has been operating – and producing terrorists – freely in the UK since 2006 through the shockingly simple tactic of changing its name.
Interestingly, in a message sent out yesterday by the Government’s Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU), they reassure us that:
This case has been considered carefully and is based on the Government’s assessment that an organisation which is already proscribed – under the names Al Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect – is operating under different names.
The activities of Al Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect in unlawfully glorifying terrorism led to their proscription in 2006. It is right that they are not able to continue their activities by simply changing their name.
[…]A group cannot avoid proscription simply by changing its name.
If Al Muhajiroun should reformulate itself under a different name or names, then those new names will be subject to the same process of consideration for proscription as has resulted in the Order laid on Monday. The Government will not hesitate to add new names to the list if necessary.
The use of an alternative name which is not listed does not prevent the police and Crown Prosecution Service from taking action against an individual for proscription offences if it can be proved that the non-listed name is in fact the same group as a proscribed organisation.
This is all fair enough, but also begs the question: if ‘a group cannot avoid proscription simply by changing its name’, why has ASWJ/AM/Islam4uk been able to do just that for over three years? The answer, I’m afraid, is that Labour has become a ‘party of press releases’, by which I mean it does not act out of the best interests of the state but instead at the behest of the latest media frenzy. It is no coincidence that this ban has come after the public outrage the group caused when it protested against returning soldiers in Luton and recently planned a march in Wootten Bassett, the town now synonymous with the return of fallen soldiers.
This poorly timed ban has needlessly given ammunition to the pro-Islamists who argue that the move is an attempt to silence Muslim critics of the government’s foreign policy, a claim which Shiraz Maher dismantled in his blog earlier today. This argument was put forward yesterday both by Inayat Bunglawala and Islamix, and today the Muslim Brotherhood’s IslamOnline site ran a piece entitled ‘UK Bans Muslim Group Over War March’ – says it all really. This all could have been done much more smoothly and effectively, pity that Labour can’t put a foot right at the moment.