Islamic Human Rights Commission
10 October 2005
Urgent Alert: Campaign against New Anti-Terror Laws
The Islamic Human Rights Commission is calling upon all campaigners to take urgent action against forthcoming anti-terror legislation.
The last 5 years has seen a plethora of draconian anti-terror legislation being enforced in the UK. The process began even prior to 9-11 with the introduction of the Terrorism Act 2000, under which hundreds of thousands have been stopped and searched on mere suspicion alone and over 900 arrested, the vast majority of whom have been released without charge. The Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 introduced the much maligned policy of internment of foreign nationals in Britain. In total, 18 Muslim men were detained indefinitely without charge, the majority of whom were released following over three years imprisonment. In March 2005, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 was introduced legislating for the imposition of Control Orders on all terror suspects, including British citizens. These severely restricted freedom of movement and association and prohibited use of communication devices such as the internet and telephone.
The New Proposals
Even before the London bombings, senior government ministers had expressed their desire to bring in even more draconian legislation. The bombings gave the government the perfect excuse to introduce such laws. Proposals made in speeches by Tony Blair were outlined in a draft bill to be put to parliament on 18 October 2005. For a full briefing on the new proposals, please see “Uniting to Protect our Rights” in the Briefings section of www.ihrc.org
The most dangerous proposals can be summarised as follows:
1) new offences to criminalise statements which amount to the ‘direct or indirect encouragement’ of terrorist acts or which ‘glorify, exalt or celebrate’ such acts with intent to do so
This will be used to silence all those who speak up for the right of the oppressed masses in Palestine, Iraq, the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation, Kashmir, Sudan and elsewhere to use force in self-defence. To express your support for their rights will become a criminal offence. It will also be used to silence dissent against repressive dictatorial regimes around the world.
Furthermore, the law could be applied discriminately as certain things when expressed by Muslims will be regarded as glorification of terrorism, but the same will not be the case when expressed by non-Muslims. For example, both Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi and Cherie Blair have expressed their understanding of why oppressed Palestinians would carry out martyrdom operations. It is highly unlikely that Cherie Blair will face prosecution for her words.
2) The extension of detention without charge of terror suspects from 14 days to 3 months
This shocking move mirrors policies in the worst police states around the world. For an innocent person to be arrested, detained and questioned for three months will ruin his life, even if released without charge. The lengthy detention will most likely lead to a loss of employment, punishment for his family, a loss of reputation and an irremovable stigma. Furthermore, three months is an extremely long period of stressful interrogation during which time an individual may be psychologically bullied into saying anything, true or false. This is internment, plain and simple.
3) the closure of places of worship which are used to foment extremism
Although no definition has been given for “extremism”, Blair has referred to the desire for shariah in Muslim lands, the desire to rid Muslim lands of occupation, and the striving for Khilafah as “extremism”. In short, no form of political Islam will be tolerated in the mosques. This is as clear an attempt to secularise the mosques as is possible.
4) the banning of Hizb-ut Tahrir and the expanding of grounds to ban even more groups
Whatever one’s grievances with HT may be, for the government to express its intention to ban a non-violent group exposes its agenda to depoliticise Islam. If HT is banned for vocalising its desire for Khilafah and political Islam, the gates will open for nearly every Muslim group in Britain to be similarly banned. Members of a banned organisation can be jailed for 10 years; wearing clothing or displaying a symbol suggesting support for a banned organisation, carries a five year jail sentence. In essence, for an individual, with no connection to HT whatsoever, to hold up the khilafah flag may result in his prosecution.
5) a new crime of “disseminating terrorist publications”
This is an unprecedented attack on the admirable policy of freedom of academic thought in the Muslim world. Again, the definition of “terrorism” is so broad as to encompass legitimate political beliefs and internationally recognised rights of resistance. To make it an offence to raise awareness of oppression and encourage people to fight it is to criminalise human nature to help the weak.
6) deportation of persons for fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person’s beliefs or justifying or validating such violence
Again, an attempt to criminalise foreign nationals who support the right of people living under brutal military occupation to use force to defend themselves; already almost twenty brothers have been arrested under this law and are facing deportation to countries such as Algeria, Jordan, and Libya where they are sure to face torture and/or execution. To deport these men to these countries is illegal under international human rights law. To get around this, the Government is trying to sign “memorandums of understanding” with these countries where they promise they will not torture deportees. One such agreement has already been signed with Jordan.
1. Contact your local MP and request that they oppose the introduction of such legislation. Call them, write to them or arrange an appointment with them in which you can make your concerns known to them. A sample letter is below for your convenience.
For contact details of who your MP is and where to write to them, visit www.writetothem.com
Alternatively, call the House of Commons switchboard on 020 7219 3000 and ask for your MP’s office
House of Commons
Dear [Your MP]
Re: Request to Oppose Proposed Anti-Terror Laws
As a member of your constituency, I am writing to request you oppose the new proposed anti-terror legislation to be debated later this month.
The new laws constitute an unprecedented curtailment of civil liberties in Britain and are contrary to the traditional values of liberty and democracy with which Britain is associated. For example, the proposal to extend the period of detention of terror suspects from 14 days to 3 months is another form of internment. Already, hundreds of innocent people have been arrested under the Terrorism Act only to be released without charge. To hold someone for three months will destroy their family lives and livelihood. It is something I normally associate with police states in Burma, Libya and Algeria, not Britain.
Other proposals which I am very worried about are those to create a new offence to glorify terrorism with intent. Unfortunately, under this government’s definition, to support oppressed people’s right to fight against oppression and occupation may be regarded as ‘glorification’ of terrorism. Many people who support the internationally recognised right of self-defence for oppressed people in Palestine, the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation and Sudan may be prosecuted for their beliefs. For example, even to have supported Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid would have constituted glorification of terrorism under this law.
The government’s intention to curtail dissent and freedom of speech can be seen in its desire to ban the Islamic group, Hizb-ut Tahrir. Although we may have our differences with the goals and objectives of this group, they neither promote nor incite violence as a methodology of change. To ban Hizb-ut Tahrir will once again to be to follow in the footsteps of dictatorial regimes such as those in Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Egypt. If Hizb-ut Tahrir is banned, it will create a dangerous precedent whereby dissidents can be silenced through arrests and prosecutions.
Finally, the proposal to close down places of worship accused of fomenting ‘extremism’ is very worrying. Already the government has virtually criminalised any form of political Islam as “extremism”. To shut mosques for discussing politics in the Muslim world is a further crackdown on freedom of speech and will only drive such issues underground, which will cause only further alienation and radicalisation of the Muslim community.
These laws will not do anything to prevent terrorism. Police states throughout the world have similar laws but they still experience terrorism as these laws create even more injustice and suffering.
I urge you to oppose the introduction of these new laws and raise my concerns in Parliament.
Thank you for your time. I will be contacting you shortly to confirm receipt of my letter. I look forward to hearing from you on this urgent matter.