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UK's new anti-terrorism strategy 'counter-productive,' warn Muslims

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, March 24, IRNA – Britain’s largest Muslim organisation has criticised the UK government’s plans to widen the definition of extremism in its latest counter-terrorism strategy as “counter-productive.”

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) also rejected calls for its deputy secretary general Daud Abdullah (pictured) to resign after reportedly signing a public declaration made by 90 Muslims leaders from around the world, expressing support of Hamas as the elected Palestinian government and the right of armed resistance against Israel’s military occupation.

Speaking ahead of the government’s launch of its new CONTEST-2 strategy, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said Tuesday that there would be a greater emphasis on tackling terrorism through "civil challenge".

"Where people may not have broken the law but nevertheless act in a way that undermines our belief in this country, in democracy, in human rights, in tolerance, and free speech, there should be a challenge made to them, not through the law but through a civil challenge," Smith said.

"We should argue back, we should make clear that those things are unacceptable. And I think that the vast majority of communities from all different religious and other backgrounds support those shared values and want to make that challenge," she told the BBC.

Reports suggested that the government’s proposals would lead to most British Muslims being branded as extremists, including those who advocate a caliphate, promote Sharia law, believe in armed resistance, including by Palestinians against the Israeli military and fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But MCB expressed serious alarm that the government may be in “danger of adopting misguided notions of extremism as dictated by xenophobic commentators who profit from creating a hostile atmosphere from which bigots of all shades can draw.”

“A definition of ‘extremism’ that would classify the overwhelming majority of loyal and law abiding British citizens as extremists would be of no value in our common fight against terrorism,” the umbrella organisation warned after over 200 prominent Muslim civic and religious leaders held a meeting in Birmingham last Saturday.

Speakers at the meeting also highlighted the abuse of current anti-terrorism legislation as being “so broad that anyone and everyone can be booked under the pretext of terrorism and therefore it has failed to focus on or tackle extremism.”

In response to the government’s plans, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) also condemned the latest proposals as a “dangerous experiment in social engineering.”

Contest-2 cannot be viewed in isolation but is just the latest chapter in a trend of creating, promoting and funding Muslim institutions which will promote the government’s version of acceptable Islam, under the guise of community cohesion, said IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh .

“We call upon the government to leave this divisive policy and concentrate on acts of criminality rather than religious beliefs. This will have a far greater impact on hindering terrorism and making Britain a safer place for all its people,” Shadjareh said.

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, warned, “It is not the Government’s role to look for the “true voices of Islam” or of any other religion or belief.”

To put pressure on MCB, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has severed relations with the umbrella organisation that embraces some 500 mosques, charities and schools after previously suspending government funding.

But at their Birmingham meeting, its leaders said British Muslims have the same inherent and equal rights to hold and promote their beliefs as any other faith community.

“Muslims in Britain are rich in their diversity of theology, background and experience. Therefore, uninformed calls for an engineered reformation of Islam were totally rejected as un-British and counter productive,” they said.



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