For Immediate Release
29th December 2000
Britain to Clampdown on Muslim “Terrorists”
Kashmir killing by British national provides pretext to demonise UK Muslim community
A suicide bomber carried out a car bomb attack on Christmas Day in Srinagar in Indian-occupied Kashmir, killing 10 people including six Indian soldiers and three Kashmiri students. According to the BBC (28 December), the suicide bomber is rumoured to have been named Mohammed Bilal, a 24 year old former student from the English city of Birmingham. However, a British connection to the attack has not yet been established and British officials have yet to confirm the bomber’s actual identity.
The unconfirmed rumours of a British connection have generated renewed pressure on the British Government to crack down on “extremist groups” that allegedly use Britain as a safe haven for raising funds, recruiting and training members for operations abroad. Muslims are to be the key targets of the crack down, which falls under the provisions contained in the Terrorism Act 2000 to be enforced in January. The Act will lend police and the Home Secretary far wider scope to clamp down on groups operating in Britain alleged to be supporting terrorism abroad (Times, 28 December).
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is concerned that the recent bombing, along with the pressure to crack down on alleged “extremist groups,” will result in the further demonisation of the already disenfranchised Muslim community in Britain. Although the identity of the suicide bomber and his rumoured British connection has not yet been confirmed, there has already been talk of renewed efforts to target Muslims in the UK. The Indian Government hopes that the Muslim resistance against India’s illegal occupation of Kashmir and its alleged support groups among Pakistani and Kashmiri expatriates in Britain, will fall foul of the new anti-terrorism legislation. An Indian source remarked: “We are hopeful that soon it will be tougher for the terrorist groups to operate here and that extraditions will be applied more forcefully.” (Times, 28 December)
Chairman of IHRC, Massoud Shadjareh, noted the disparity in the Government’s attitude toward the case of the British Muslim Bilal and other non-Muslim British nationals:
“It is well known that a large number of British nationals have taken up the option of serving in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The cold-blooded murder of the Palestinian child, Muhammad Al-Durrah, could easily have been committed by a British national serving with the IDF.”
Over 10,000 Palestinians have been seriously injured and over 300 shot dead by Israeli forces in occupied Palestine, nearly half of whom have been children under 18.
“Indeed, it is likely that a substantial number of the over 10,000 Palestinians killed and injured in the occupied territories were war crimes committed by British members of the IDF. Yet the British Government makes no noise about the extremist groups based in Britain facilitating such support of the Israeli military, who are thereby supporting terrorism abroad,” said Mr Shadjareh.
IHRC is particularly worried that due to the very broad and vague terms of the new anti-terrorism legislation, it will result in the abuse of the human, social and civil rights of British citizens, particularly British Muslims. (see Annex 1 for analysis).
IHRC therefore calls on the British Government to act with caution in regard to the case of Mohammed Bilal, and refrain from allowing the case to result in the demonisation of Muslims in Britian and abroad. Regardless of the conclusions of the case, the fact remains that the Government has chosen to ignore British nationals violating the new anti-terrorism legislation by joining and supporting the IDF, which has been committing war crimes in occupied Palestine for over 50 years. Mr Shadjareh said,
“Even apart from the inherent flaws of the new anti-terrorism legislation, the Government should remain consistent and fair in its measures against terrorism. Currently, it seems that the new legislation is being used as a legal pretext to support illegally occupying regimes.”
A more detailed briefing is available upon request. For more information on the above, please contact the IHRC Press Office on (+44) 20 8902 0888, (+44) 958 522 196, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the National Council for Civil Liberties (Liberty) reports, under the Terrorism Act 2000 people who are merely “suspected of ‘terrorist’ offences would therefore have fewer rights than other criminals.” Suspects who are allegedly “motivated by political or religious factors when committing a crime will have fewer rights than a person who assaults another for revenge or greed.” The definition of terrorism is so widely drawn, points out Liberty, that the Act “will mean that if you intend to destroy GM for reasons of conscience you would have less rights than a person who was involved in the deliberate assault and robbery of a vulnerable person.” The Act will also “potentially be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights” by allowing suspects to be assumed guilty, so that “they would have to prove [they are] innocent.” Liberty points out the Act will even “prevent people from exercising their right to free speech”, by making it “an offense to support by words alone an armed struggle in a country outside the UK. Those who support struggles from human rights and democracy in other countries may find themselves under investigation by the police.” (Liberty report, ‘Terrorism Bill: An overview’) In this regard, the Times admits that Middle East dictatorships, “particularly Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Egypt, have in the past accused the British of allowing suspected terrorists to operate freely in London and other English cities. In most cases, the exiled militants claim to be innocent opposition figures driven out of their countries by authoritarian regimes who refuse to accept any religious or political dissent at home.” (28 December) IHRC can confirm several cases where this has, indeed, been the case.