| ||The Quilliam Foundation issued a press release on Wednesday this week drawing attention to co-director Maajid Nawaz’s (pictured) performance on Newsnight, confronting Anjem Choudary on the day the government announced that it was to ban Islam4UK and Al Muhajiroun under terrorism legislation. |
According to the QF PR:
‘Maajid Nawaz re-iterated Quilliam’s support for a ban on Islam4Uk on the grounds that the group (in all its different incarnations such as al-Muhajiroun and al-Ghurabaa) has repeatedly encouraged and endorsed Islamist terrorism.
‘Nawaz also pointed out that at least 20 of the group’s former members and supporters have been convicted of serious offences such as planning terrorist acts, fundraising for terrorism and inciting murder and hatred.’
There’s an interesting conundrum here that Nawaz seems to bypass. Given that legislation exists to indict and prosecute individuals who are believed to be involved in activities proscribed and punishable under current terror laws, do we hold an organization responsible for these individuals’ actions, or the individuals themselves? The point is not an academic one because there have been instances of BNP members and sympathizers being convicted of serious offences. Should then the BNP similarly be banned?
Anjem Choudary on Radio 4’s Today programme defended his group against claims that it had violated laws, saying:
"I challenge anyone to authentically prove that any of our members have been involved in any violent activities or promoting violent activities or asking anyone to carry out any sort of military operations.
"We are always at pains to stress that we are an ideological and political organisation."
And as the Daily Telegraph comment, viewing the ban as a ‘pointless gesture’, rightly points out, ‘proscription is the easy option. A tougher one would require greater political will than we have seen hitherto. If there is evidence of direct terrorist involvement, then the organisers should be prosecuted: there are treason laws that can be used against British citizens who give "aid and comfort" to our enemies.’
Banning organisations in a liberal democracy is not a matter to be taken lightly and decisions that undermine the parameters of a democratic society are ones that should be weighed up extremely carefully if our liberal democratic principles define our primary differences from other types of repressive political communities.
Nawaz, instead, contends:
‘The banning of Islam4UK is a necessary measure that is long overdue given that the group was originally established as a front for the proscribed groups al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect (which were themselves front-groups for the radical al-Muhajiroun organisation, an offshoot of Hizb ut-Tahrir).’
Any other critic would surmise from the above that bans are ineffective if groups simply mutate to pass below the radar and escape proscription, as does the Evening Standard:
‘The decision by the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, to ban the group Islam4UK will achieve little. As with some previous bans on extremist organisations, the group will simply reorganise under a new name, as it already has on at least one occasion....Most people find Choudary's views repellent but he should be allowed to express them, if only to remind us just how silly and narcisisstic is this armchair warrior from Welling. He will be delighted that Mr Johnson has instead taken the bait as intended.’
And Timothy Garton Ash, in the Guardian:
‘An ineffective ban will be the worst of both worlds, and we know that the ban is likely to be ineffective, because Islam4UK itself emerged when two other offshoots of the original al-Muhajiroun organisation were banned – and Choudary has more or less said this is what he'll do again. The fungus will re-emerge under a different name, or none. If Choudary carries on as he is now, reportedly living on state benefits provided by the hard-pressed British taxpayer, enjoying police protection against possible right-wing attacks, yet spitting his practised venom to the media – now with the added celebrity that the prime minister and the home secretary have given him – then it will be worse than if he had all along been ignored. How much better to dismiss this man, in traditional British fashion, as a joke and a jerk.’
But QF are not alone in supporting the ban. Shaaz Mahboob, of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, writes in The Independent:
‘The ban is a welcome sign that the Government is finally taking notice of individuals found abusing the right to free speech. Perhaps its next action will be against far-right organisations – if it holds back, it will raise serious questions about the selective application of powerful tools such as proscription.’
Since when was the abuse of freedom of speech sufficient grounds to ban a group and delimit the boundaries of free speech? Who defines ‘abuse’ and how do we measure it to ascertain when abuse has taken place?
The BMSD perspective is not just worrying for its supporting the banning of Islam4UK, but in desiring an extension of the ban to include other detestable groups in our society. It begs the question of where BMSD would draw its limits and doesn’t its narrow focus contravene its assumed democratic credentials?
No surprise however, that the BMSD and other groups supportive of the ban appear in RICU’s weekly news summary this week. No room for competing opinion in that either it would seem.
Given that QF and BMSD are both in receipt of government funding under the Prevent programme, their concurring with the ban on Islam4UK is perhaps not entirely unexpected. Noam Chomsky's insightful phrase ‘manufacturing consent’ comes to mind.
The futility of a ban is something QF only appear to acknowledge in their closing comments:
‘At the same time, the banning of Islam4UK is likely to have only limited long-term effects. Anjem Choudary and his followers have avoided previous attempts to ban them simply by establishing new front-groups under different names. It is likely that they will employ similar tactics in the future.’
So a ban is not desirable after all then?
|< Prev||Next >|