Blair challenged on religious extremist crack-down

Blair challenged on religious extremist crack-down

By staff writers
5 Aug 2005

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Blair challenged on religious extremist crack-down

-05/08/05

British Prime Minister Tony Blair today promised tough new steps to exclude and ban preachers or activists who advocate hatred or encourage violence, as part of a range of government security policies aimed at tackling terrorism.

But Muslim, Christian and civil liberties spokespeople expressed concern about overreaction by the authorities resulting in counter-productive measures.

Among the proposals are banning extremist Muslim organisations, exclusion orders against particular individuals, powers to close mosques that support dangerous ideologies, and the ability to deport people who ìvisit particular bookshops and websitesî.

Mr Blair also declared that he was prepared to amend human rights laws to make deportations more straightforward ñ a move that will put him in head-on collision with civil liberties advocates.

The Hizb ut Tahrir organisation (which advocates for an Islamic state, but is non-violent) and Al-Muhajiroun (which has justified what it calls ëmartyrdom operationsí) are among the groups to be banned.

The prime minister said that there will be a one-month consultation on the new grounds for excluding and deporting people. Such steps do not require parliamentary approval. But Mr Blair did not rule out the recall of the House of Commons, which is currently on summer recess.

Among the reasons for removing people will be advocating violence to further a particular belief, justifying or validating such violence, or fostering hatred. Lawyers and the human rights organisation Liberty said tonight that some of this may create a legal minefield.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the moderate Muslim Council of Britain declared that banning organisations would be counter-productive.

Religious and civic groups, including the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia, are urging that hatred is best tackled by argument not repression.

ìPeople expect the government to take legitimate security measures, but not to undermine human rights or to push discontent underground in ways that might prove even more damaging in the long runî, commented Ekklesia Co-Director Simon Barrow.

He added: ìReligious ideas that legitimate war and terror need to be confronted by open debate and discussion. This needs to happen in mosques, churches, community centres, through the media and on the streets.î

In an article published today (Taking the murder out of religion), Mr Barrow says that ìour current problems of war and terror, rooted in myths of cleansing violence, are not just issues of isolated religious and political extremism. They are symptoms of a deeper malaise in the global body politic, the human condition, and the religious spirit.î

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti told BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme: ìShuffling people off around the globe is not an answer to national or world security.î

She went on: ìYou do not deport people to places where they would face torture, and self-serving agreements and statements by governments that are not democratic are not going to [be sufficient].î

Concluded Ms Chakrabarti: ìPeople who incite terrorism can and should be prosecuted. But to move into the realms of Ö undergraduate conversations and political discussions is very dangerous. It is how we begin to shut down the very democracy that we say we are seeking to defend.î

A spokesperson for the Bar Council Public Affairs Committee, which brings together concerned barristers, said they had ìconcerns that Mr Blair seems to wish to suspend Article 3 of the Human Rights Act in order to solve the problems we all face.î

Mr Bruce Holder added: ìThere can be no justification for suspending basic human rights when even other countries in Europe who are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights are bound by the decisions of that court.î

Imran Waheed of Hizb ut Tahrir declared his group would fight any ban and added that what Mr Blair was proposing would spread discontent among young Muslims.

A representative of Al Muhajiroun said the UK branch had been closed months ago, claiming that the PM was ìout of touchî and ìracistî.

Meanwhile London Mayor Ken Livingstone has advocated direct dialogue with Muslim leaders critical of Western attitudes and actions, including those who advocate unacceptable policies.

In the 1980s Mr Livingstone, as head of the now defunct Greater London Council, caused outrage by inviting Sinn Fein politician Gerry Adams to the capital. Then Mr Adams was close to the IRA. But subsequently he has become a significant player in the Irish peace process.

[Ekklesiaís response to the 7 July London bombings is called Beyond the politics of fear]

British Prime Minister Tony Blair today promised tough new steps to exclude and ban preachers or activists who advocate hatred or encourage violence, as part of a range of government security policies aimed at tackling terrorism.

But Muslim, Christian and civil liberties spokespeople expressed concern about overreaction by the authorities resulting in counter-productive measures.

Among the proposals are banning extremist Muslim organisations, exclusion orders against particular individuals, powers to close mosques that support dangerous ideologies, and the ability to deport people who 'visit particular bookshops and websites'.

Mr Blair also declared that he was prepared to amend human rights laws to make deportations more straightforward - a move that will put him in head-on collision with civil liberties advocates.

The Hizb ut Tahrir organisation (which advocates for an Islamic state, but is non-violent) and Al-Muhajiroun (which has justified what it calls ëmartyrdom operations') are among the groups to be banned.

The prime minister said that there will be a one-month consultation on the new grounds for excluding and deporting people. Such steps do not require parliamentary approval. But Mr Blair did not rule out the recall of the House of Commons, which is currently on summer recess.

Among the reasons for removing people will be advocating violence to further a particular belief, justifying or validating such violence, or fostering hatred. Lawyers and the human rights organisation Liberty said tonight that some of this may create a legal minefield.

Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the moderate Muslim Council of Britain declared that banning organisations would be counter-productive.

Religious and civic groups, including the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia, are urging that hatred is best tackled by argument not repression.

'People expect the government to take legitimate security measures, but not to undermine human rights or to push discontent underground in ways that might prove even more damaging in the long run', commented Ekklesia Co-Director Simon Barrow.

He added: 'Religious ideas that legitimate war and terror need to be confronted by open debate and discussion. This needs to happen in mosques, churches, community centres, through the media and on the streets.'

In an article published today (Taking the murder out of religion), Mr Barrow says that 'our current problems of war and terror, rooted in myths of cleansing violence, are not just issues of isolated religious and political extremism. They are symptoms of a deeper malaise in the global body politic, the human condition, and the religious spirit.'

Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti told BBC Radio 4's The World at One programme: 'Shuffling people off around the globe is not an answer to national or world security.'

She went on: 'You do not deport people to places where they would face torture, and self-serving agreements and statements by governments that are not democratic are not going to [be sufficient].'

Concluded Ms Chakrabarti: 'People who incite terrorism can and should be prosecuted. But to move into the realms of Ö undergraduate conversations and political discussions is very dangerous. It is how we begin to shut down the very democracy that we say we are seeking to defend.'

A spokesperson for the Bar Council Public Affairs Committee, which brings together concerned barristers, said they had 'concerns that Mr Blair seems to wish to suspend Article 3 of the Human Rights Act in order to solve the problems we all face.'

Mr Bruce Holder added: 'There can be no justification for suspending basic human rights when even other countries in Europe who are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights are bound by the decisions of that court.'

Imran Waheed of Hizb ut Tahrir declared his group would fight any ban and added that what Mr Blair was proposing would spread discontent among young Muslims.

A representative of Al Muhajiroun said the UK branch had been closed months ago, claiming that the PM was 'out of touch' and 'racist'.

Meanwhile London Mayor Ken Livingstone has advocated direct dialogue with Muslim leaders critical of Western attitudes and actions, including those who advocate unacceptable policies.

In the 1980s Mr Livingstone, as head of the now defunct Greater London Council, caused outrage by inviting Sinn Fein politician Gerry Adams to the capital. Then Mr Adams was close to the IRA. But subsequently he has become a significant player in the Irish peace process.

[Ekklesia's response to the 7 July London bombings is called Beyond the politics of fear]

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