2nd March 2001
The Home Secretary’s announcement on 28 February of 21 proscribed organisations is an ill-wind that erodes civil liberties and knocks community relations off-course. It also inadvertently reinforces the Islamophobia brigade, which Mr Straw would be the first to distance himself from.
It is a bad law beset with contradictions. It should not be forgotten that if Britain and other Security Council members had enforced UN resolutions on Kashmir and Palestine then wrongs would have been righted, and groups would not have been forced to adopt armed struggle to claim their rights. There is no shortage of evidence of the hand of Israeli agents in the assassination of prominent Palestinians in Europe – why have Palestinian organisations been proscribed, but not the state-sponsored terrorists? Will there be a clamp down on the activities of British-Israel citizens funding, arming and promoting the illegal settlements? Moreover, will organisations fanning anti-Christian and anti-Muslim fanaticism in India also be proscribed?
It is strange that when the Muslim community has called for legislation outlawing religious discrimination it has repeatedly met with intransigence – the definition of ‘religion’ being used as an obstacle. Yet the enactment of the Terrorism Act, which presents the far more intractable problem of defining ‘terrorism’ seems to have raised no such challenges.
Mr Yousuf Bhailok, Secretary General of the MCB noted that “There is a feeling of double standards. The Muslim community totally abhors terrorism and there has never been any act of terrorism by Muslims in Britain” and added that the Home Secretary had not consulted any British Muslim organisations while drawing up its ‘proscribed list’. The MCB said that this was baffling
“Regrettably, it is clear that our government has allowed itself to be unduly influenced by external forces at the expense of the basic civil rights of its own citizens,” said Mr Yousuf Bhailok. “The Home Secretary has failed to distinguish between legitimate resistance movements who fight against the illegal occupation of their own land and organisations like the IRA which have targeted mainland Britain”.