London, 22 Jumadil Awwal 1436/13 March 2015 (MINA) – Scores of British imams and leaders of Muslim organizations have issued a strongly worded public statement to condemn what they describe as ‘crude and divisive’ government, accusing it of criminalizing Islam.
“We reject the portrayal of Muslims and the Muslim community as a security threat,” statement, On Islam quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.
“The latest act of parliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nursery workers, schoolteachers and universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalization’.”
Signed by more than 60 imams and Muslim leaders, the statement accused British government of exploiting the “terror threat” for political capital ahead of the general election. “Exploiting public fears about security is as dishonorable as exploiting public fears about immigration,” the statement reads.
“Both deflect attention from crises in the economy and health service, but are crude and divisive tactics, where the big parties inevitably try to outdo each other in their nastiness.”
The letter cited the targeting of Muslims through anti-terror legislation following revelations that the Home Office is planning a “more assertive” stance against extremism.
“The latest Act of Parliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nursery workers, schoolteachers and Universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalization’,” the statement reads.
“Such a narrative will only further damage social cohesion as it incites suspicion and ill feeling in the broader community.
“The use of undefined and politically charged words like ‘radicalization’ and ‘extremism’ is unacceptable as it criminalizes legitimate political discourse and criticism of successive governments,” the letter said.
Muslim leaders warned that the new Counter-Terrorism and Security Act had made the entire Muslim community feel targeted.
“Counter-terrorism policies are flawed and alienating,” Jahangir Mohammed, director of the Centre for Muslim Affairs, told the Guardian.
“This approach is not working and actually backfiring. The entire Muslim community is being blamed for the actions of a violent few and as a result Muslims in Britain feel marginalised.”
He added that the Act would legitimize public servants’ suspicions of Muslims and their beliefs and political views. “This goes against equality policies that state individuals should not be discriminated due to their political and religious beliefs,” he said.
“It will serve to destroy good community relations that have been built over many years and will treat Muslims as a suspect community.”
The list of signatories also include the high-profile Muslim converts Yvonne Ridley and Cherie Blair’s half-sister, Lauren Booth, as well as academic Dr Reza Pankhurst, who is a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and spent four years in an Egyptian jail for trying to recruit others to the group’s cause in 2002.
Another signatory is Shakeel Begg, the imam of the Lewisham Islamic Centre, which was attended by the Woolwich killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, in the months leading up to attack on Drummer Lee Rigby.
The statement goes on to criticize “the continued public targeting of Muslims through endless ‘anti-terror’ laws,” adding that there have been 10 such pieces of legislation since the year 2000.
Such legislation gives “huge power to the state”, while fuelling “media hysteria”, it claims.
Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for Muslim Action Forum (MAF), which organized a rally of thousands of British Muslims protesting against cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad, said Muslims were feeling frustrated and disillusioned.
“People are being asked to compromise their faith and many feel there is no alternative here. The current environment has contributed to issues like young people leaving to go to Syria,” he said.
“Raiding mosques and investigating charities is not the way to tackle extremism,” he said.
“Every Muslim is being treated with suspicion and heavy-handed tactics are being used against them. Celebrities like Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter do not represent all British celebrities: why then do a minority of individuals who do something wrong become a representation of the entire Islamic faith?” (T/P011/P3)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)