BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
The Shadow Home Secretary has recently promised that a Conservative government will crack down on all types of extremists, including the ‘non-violent’ ones. At the Tory conference yesterday he made two specific promises.
Addressing an audience of confident (some might even say smug) Tories, he said:
…we are still not tough enough on those who spread a doctrine of hate in Britain.
So I will immediately ban Hizb ‘ut Tahrir, and any other group that actively incites hatred and violence.
We also have extremists using video links to hold meetings with banned preachers of hate from overseas who urge violence against our society.
If I am Home Secretary the people who organise those meetings will be arrested and prosecuted.
In the past, David Cameron has also promised that a Tory government will ban Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), as did Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister. Experts are split on whether banning HT is the best option. One of the main problems is that banning Islamist groups in the past has been ineffective. Take, for example Anjem Choudhary’s al-Muhajiroun, who were disbanded in October 2004 in an attempt to avoid legal action. The group reformed as al Ghuraba and Saved Sect, both of which were banned in 2006 after the 2000 Terrorism Act was amended to include glorification of terrorism and incitement to racial and religious hatred. Today, Choudhary and his crew of illiterates are resurgent and are back under the al-Muhajiroun banner. This is despite the fact that they are the same group of people who were banned in 2006, with the same fascist ideology, but with a different name. Just two months ago their website, Islam4UK, posted an article explaining the Koranic justification for killing ‘those who insult the Prophet’. Herein lies the dilemma – the problem is the ideology and banning a group by name has proved ineffective. As President Obama famously put it ‘you can put lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig’. If you tell this particular pig it can’t wear lipstick, it will simply come back to the ball wearing eye-shadow or possibly sporting a stylish frock. But it’s still the same pig, and the point is it will keep coming back for more.
In any future attempt to ban HT, the Tories will also face a legal dilemma. Under current legislation, it is likely that a change in the law will have to be made in order to ban the group, as they have been very careful not to traverse the legal lines set out by the Terrorism Act 2000.
Grayling’s comment on video links should also ruffle a few feathers, particularly his threat to arrest and prosecute those who organise video link ups with hate preachers. Two groups in particular should take heed: Cage Prisoners and the East London Mosque. In August of this year, Cage Prisoners, a group headed by former Guantanamo Bay inmate Moazzam Begg, planned to present pro al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaki via video link in the town hall of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). This was prevented after pressure was exerted on RBKC by a few concerned bodies, and the event was allowed to go ahead on the condition that the Awlaki video was not shown. Cage Prisoners, understandably unhappy that their attempts to promote a murderous extremist were thwarted, issued an indignant press release where they described Awlaki as ‘inspirational’.
In December 2008, the East London Mosque did one better than Cage Prisoners and actually succeeded in giving a platform to an al-Qaeda preacher, when they held an event about judgement day which featured an Awlaki video message. For a mosque with such influence, this is not only hugely irresponsible but also comes very close to incitement, particularly if one were to consider what the US Under Secretary for Home Defence, Charles Allen, has said about Awlaki’s messages:
Anwar al-Awlaki, an Al Qaida supporter and former spiritual leader to three of the September 11 hijackers, targets US Muslims with radical online lectures, encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen.
Al Qaida continues to target American Muslims susceptible to supporting violence in the name of religion.
The East London Mosque was recently given a publicity boost when the Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson paid them a visit in September. It would be interesting to know what Grayling makes of that in light of his speech yesterday.