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What the terrorism law means for British Muslims
16th February, 2006

by Sunny Hundal

He could not do much about global poverty or debt, neither has he made Britain a more equal society. We can safely assume that Tony Blair wants his legacy to be the man who 'stood up' to terrorism and made the country safe.

Despite a severe mauling in the press yesterday, particularly in the Daily Mail and The Independent, Tony Blair managed to win the battle in passing through a law on glorifying terrorism last night - by 315 to 277 votes.

The Prime Minister said it was "vital" to defend Britain against people like Abu Hamza and make it easier to lock up extremists like those who demonstrated last Friday against the Danish cartoons.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague called it a "press release law designed to catch the headlines" - coming nearest to the truth. Existing laws already cover people like Abu Hamza, caught on tape asking his followers to commit murder, otherwise he wouldn't be behind bars.

Forthcoming plans for a new offence to prevent 'indirect encouragement of terrorism' would cover the bufoons from Al-Ghurabaa, now amusingly proclaiming "there is no room for freedom in Islam".

The law against glorifying terrorism is part of the Terrorism Bill, introduced after the 7th July attacks in London. Another part of the bill - allowing suspects to be held by the police for 90 days - was previously voted down by MPs and amended to 28 days.

Shadow attorney-general Dominic Grieve stated the obvious to BBC News: "This is a bogus spat generated by No 10 Downing Street for the purpose of the prime minister looking tough." The torrent of abuse from newspapers pointed to the same thing.

A report published yesterday by the Centre for Policy Studies, 'The Construction of a False Narrative on the Domestic Terror Threat', outlined how the government had consistently misled the public or exaggerated the 'war on terror' in order to pass through laws curtailing our civil liberties.

The Ricin incident and the planned attack on Old Trafford, both of which turned out to be false, are good examples.

The law is so vague that a whole host of innocent parties can be arrested by police constables over arbitary charges.

Let's not beat around the bush - this law is squarely aimed at Muslims. There are no Tamil terrorists or Khalistanis threatening violence in Britain as far as I'm aware.

Innocent Muslims constantly get "named and shamed" in the press, to later be released quietly due to a lack of any evidence.

Given the recent exposé by New Statesman magazine over its plans, the government will now have the extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir in its sights.

The Muslim Council of Britain is clearly disappointed that the law will "criminalise legitimate armed struggles against violent regimes", essentially meaning they'll have to be careful when expressing support for suicide bombers in Israel or terrorists in Kashmir.

An article by Pete Oborne in the Independent yesterday outlined how the government set up 'Muslim working groups' after the bombings to provide solutions yet gave them little time for research or careful analysis.

Just as the MCB has been using its close alliance with Labour to gain favour and consolidate its position as the "representative" for Muslims, Labour has been using the MCB as a stooge to show it cares while neatly ignoring its advice at critical junctures.

Because neither are really willing to understand the cancer of terrorism, or work out a long term plan to deal with it, such badly planned laws are Labour's response.

Announcement after announcement it will keep playing on people's worries and give the impression it is the only party doing anything about future attacks.

Meanwhile innocent Asians will keep getting stopped and searched, Muslims will continue to be under the glare of security services and our civil liberties will keep getting eroded.

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