Anti-terror code 'would alienate most Muslims'
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 February 2009
The government is considering plans that would lead to thousands more British Muslims being branded as extremists, the Guardian has learned. The proposals are in a counterterrorism strategy which ministers and security officials are drawing up that is due to be unveiled next month.
Some say the plans would see views held by most Muslims in Britain being classed by the government as extreme.
According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:
• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.
• They promote Sharia law.
• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.
• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.
• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Contest 2 would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values. Those who advocate the wider definition say hardline Islamist interpretation of the Qur'an leads to views that are the root cause of the terrorism threat Britain faces. But opponents say the strategy would brand the vast majority of British Muslims as extremists and alienate them even further.
The Guardian has also learned of a separate secret Whitehall counterterrorism report advocating widening the definition of who is considered extremist. Not all in Whitehall agree with the proposals and one official source said plans to widen the definition were "incendiary" and could alienate Muslims, whose support in the counterterrorism effort is needed. There were also fears it could aid the far right.
Contest 2 is still being finalised by officials and ministers. Those considered extreme would not be targeted by the criminal law, but would be sidelined and denied public funds. Ed Husain, of the Quilliam Foundation thinktank, said the root causes of terrorism were extremist views, even if those advocating the views did not call for violence.
Husain, once an extremist himself, said: "Violent extremism is produced by Islamist extremism and it's only right to get into the root causes."
Inayat Bunglawala, a former spokesman for the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said such plans would affect many British Muslims. Bunglawala, who now runs Engage, which tries to get Muslims to participate in politics and civic society, said: "That would alienate the majority of the British Muslim public. It would be counterproductive and class most Muslims as extremists."
In a speech in December, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said the government's counterterrorism strategy had to include challenging nonviolent extremist groups that "skirt the fringes of the law ... to promote hate-filled ideologies".
The Contest strategy was put in place in 2003 as the UK beefed up its response to the threat of al-Qaida inspired terrorism.
But the security service's assessment shows no drop in those they consider dangerous and the UK's terror threat level remains at severe general.
The Home Office said: "We don't comment on leaked documents."http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/feb/17/counterterrorism-strategy-muslims