Fight terrorism, but not through Draconian laws

25th August 1998

Commenting on the measures announced yesterday to strengthen Britain’s existing anti-terrorist law, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the British Muslim community has no sympathy whatsoever for any act of terrorism, local or foreign, Muslim or non-Muslim, state or individual, and would support all just and legitimate measures to deal with the problem. However, in order to be successful and win the confidence of the law-abiding majority, the measures have to be impeccably correct and transparent as well as in full accord with the European and international human rights conventions and declarations.

The proposed measures make bad law in as much as they have been thought up either as a knee-jerk reaction against the Omagh outrage or to kowtow to President Clinton’s super-power foreign policy of using surrogate terrorism to deal with outstanding problems in Washington’s relationship with the Muslim world

In either case the new legislation carries the serious risk of compromising our own respect for civil liberties, rule of law and commitment to human rights. The MCB very much doubts that the new measures would answer the real problem of terrorism here or abroad. Instead they may sow the seeds of distrust and produce alienation and, probably, even abuse of the law.

On the other hand the MCB believes that instead of playing second fiddle to the US, Britain has to maintain its declared course of ethical foreign policy because the only alternative to such policy is an unethical foreign policy. The MCB also detects an inexplicable tendency to undervalue and underplay Britain own original role in international relations in spite of its historical association with the Muslim and third world.

The Muslim Council of Britain further notes with alarm the latest outbreak of Islamophobia and the tendency by many respectable media to connect each and every incident of violence with ‘Islamic terrorism’ because someone made a telephone call or faxed a message on behalf of a never-heard-of-before-or-after ‘International Jihad organisation’. Even a cub reporter knows that Jihad cannot be declared by fax or telephone.

There is another tendency first to glamorise fringe groups and then use them to create a scare and demonise the entire Muslim community. We hope this comes to an end now. However, the MCB also expects the British Muslim community to act with wisdom and restraint and not to fall prey to any agent provocateur, within or without its ranks.