Muslim groups have condemned a report by The Home Affairs Select Committee which they say further labels the Muslim community as part of “the national security discourse.”
When the report was released a few days ago the national media focused on a few headlines from the report such as the recommendations that responsibility for counter-terrorism should move from the Met Police to the National Crime Agency, and that the intelligence agencies required better oversight and accountability.
But advocacy group CAGE and the Islamic Human Rights Commission both concentrated on statements in the report which garnered less attention, such as the criminalisation of Muslims who go to fight in Syria.
CAGE said The Home Affairs Committee’s report provides impetus for the government to embrace pre-emptive punishment with a greater relish than it has already done.
It said “the encouragement of passport removal and citizenship stripping without any judicial oversight and with the added caveat that the latter only be done while the individual is out of the country clearly shows this. That such practices, which senior peers last month mentioned were used by ‘all too many dictators’ are being dutifully promoted in Britain is a clear indication that concerns for due process and human rights have been jettisoned.
“The further entrenchment of PREVENT by seeking support from mental health workers and academics – workers who have a duty of care – is also a serious cause for concern. PREVENT has already been largely rejected by British Muslims; any attempt to bolster it will only serve to increase community discord.”
Asim Qureshi, Research Director at CAGE said: “With just 2.7% of all terrorism in the European Union last year religiously inspired, the ‘grave’ threat to Britons posed by groups – many of whom are engaged in localised conflicts – appears somewhat exaggerated. What is of greater concern is the Home Affairs Select Committee’s recommendations, which on almost every occasion display a commitment to restricting freedoms above preserving liberties.
“With despotic practices such as passport removal, citizenship deprivation and PREVENT being given the green light by this committee, these proposals are a sure sign that values this country once held dear are being eroded at an ever-quickening pace.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Human Rights Commission said the report betrays a continuing cross-party obsession with rendering the Muslim community as part of a security discourse.
“The recommendations are based on a security assessment positing the fragmentation of al-Qaeda and the magnetic pull of the Syrian civil war to attract foreign combatants as the principal terrorism threats to the UK. Indeed the biggest concern of the report is establishing the purported risk posed by returning British Muslims who have fought in Syria or elsewhere.
“IHRC finds the focus on the Muslim community to be disproportionate, inconsistent and discriminatory. By the government’s own reckoning the number of Britons fighting in Syria is relatively low – between 50 and 400 – and none have so far returned to carry out terror attacks at home or indeed expressed a desire to do so.
“Moreover the number of Muslims fighting in Syria is probably no more or less than the number of Britons who fought in Libya to depose Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during which time British politicians said little if anything about their alleged exposure to extremist ideology and military training.
“We are also concerned about the selective application of anti-terrorism policy primarily to Muslims. We see little to differentiate British Muslims fighting in Syria from British Jews serving in the Israeli Defence Forces and yet no British politician has ever expressed any concerns that they will return from the Occupied Territories to commit human rights abuses or terrorism at home. Nor has anyone ever suggested they are forced to undergo deradicalisation programmes.
“IHRC is also concerned by the recommendation to grant extra legal powers to the Charity Commission to counter the abuse of charities by terrorists. The Commission already has a dubious record of investigating Muslim-run charities on the basis of unsubstantiated terrorism allegations from hostile third parties. Extending its powers would be a green light for more unjustified politically motivated scrutiny.”