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UK Islamists: New anti-terrorism laws may push Islamist networks to work covertly | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The British House of Commons voted earlier this week to strengthen the anti-terrorism laws by criminalizing the glorification of terrorist operations. British Prime Minister Tony Blair achieved victory through the House of Commons in his anti-terrorism efforts as the House agreed, with a majority of 83 votes in favor of the new law. Despite criticism by a number of members of the ruling Labor Party, Prime Minister Tony Blair obtained a clear majority as 315 MPs voted for the bill whereas 277 MPs who voted against it.

Blair has lost three ballots since November 2005, which is partly due to a rebellion within his Labor Party. The British prime minister said that the vote would send a “signal of power” and help the authorities in confronting those who support violence.

Last month, the House of Lords voted to remove this article from the anti-terrorism bill; however, the House of Commons voted in the past few days to restore it, despite the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats voting against this reinstallation. The bill will be sent back to the House of Lords over the next few days for another ballot.

According to the statements made by a Hizb ul-Tahrir representative to Asharq al-Awsat, “The bill is not final, and will be sent back to the House of Lords.” The source pointed out that what was strange was that the bill, with all the articles that were rejected by the House of Lords, would be sent back to the same Upper House. He explained that Hizb ul-Tahrir would go to the High Court if it were banned by the British Government. He added that Hizb ul-Tahrir has bases in a number of Arab, Islamic, and European countries.

The British Government, following the final approval of the bill after it passes through the House of Lords, hopes to ban fundamentalist organizations and parties, such as Hizb ul-Tahrir, and Al-Ghuraba, which was led by the Syrian, Omar Bakri, before he escaped to Beirut.

The anti-terrorism bill was presented after the July 2005 terrorist attacks, which led to the death of 50 people in London. Those in opposition to the new anti-terrorism law argued, “The term glorification is too ambiguous, and could endanger freedom of expression.” Blair said that it was necessary to increase the powers of the security forces in order to launch campaigns against those believed to encourage violent attacks.

The dispute over the glorification term has become more urgent this month, after demonstrators in Britain protesting against the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammad, raised banners inciting violence against non-Muslims.

Fundamentalists told Asharq al-Awsat that the anti-terrorism law in its new form would push the Islamists to work covertly. Egyptian Islamist Dr Hani al-Sibai, director of the Al-Maqrizi Center for Studies in London said, “A law banning the glorification of terrorism means muzzling the Islamists, because the term is broad; even the Friday sermons will be subjected to the new law.” Al-Sibai pointed out that the interpretation of the two Quranic chapters, al-Anfal and al-Towba, could be taken as glorification of terrorism as they refer to fighting.

In January 2006, the House of Lords voted with 270 against 144 to remove the word “glorification” from the bill. The approval of the House of Commons came as an “important step” a few days after the conviction of the Islamist Abu Hamza Al-Masri, who was sentenced by a British judge to seven years imprisonment after the court found him guilty of charges of incitement to murder and hatred. The court, after less than one month of deliberations, found the Egyptian born British national Abu-Hamza al-Masri guilty of 11 charges related to terrorism, including incitement to murder and hatred.

The new law is aimed at criminalizing training in terrorist camps, and banning violence and the glorification of terrorism. The government said that there was a need for more strict laws to combat terrorism. British Home Secretary Charles Clarke warned lately that extremists were trying to “create a climate for youths, such as those who carried out the 7 July explosions in London, to become terrorists. This is being done through preaching, and glorifying terrorism, and claiming that it is a noble and sacred activity.” On the other hand, those opposing the law say that it might threaten civil liberties, and that the existing laws are sufficient for confronting terrorism.

British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, had reported recently that the government has been criticized for the failure of police to arrest Muslim demonstrators who took part in angry rallies in London denouncing the cartoons that insulted Prophet Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper because the demonstrators carried banners praising the 7 July explosions in Britain and called for more killing. On the other hand, those who oppose the new law, which currently awaits the approval of the House of Lords and the Queen to be added to the statute books, consider that the British Police already has the power to arrest those inciting violence.

British MP Bob Marshall Andrews, who represents the ruling Labor Party, and who opposes the new law, says that the Prime Minister’s office and the officials of the administration have placed MPs in an awkward position by claiming that if MPs do not agree to the government plan, then in some way they would be condoning terrorism.