About 60 imams and leaders of Muslim organisations in the United Kingdom have signed an open letter to the government, accusing it of “criminalising Islam”.
They say that the “terror threat” is being exploited for political capital in the run-up to the general election. Signatories of the letter include former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg and members of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
However, one of Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella body, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has not signed the letter.
The open letter accuses the government of trying to deflect attention from crises in the economy and health service, while trying to silence criticism of foreign policy.
The signatories criticise the “demonisation of Muslims in Britain…despite their disavowal of violence and never having supported terrorist acts.”
“The expedient use of undefined and politically charged words like ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ is unacceptable as it criminalises legitimate political discourse,” the letter says.
Apart from imams, the signatories include advocates, activists, community leaders, community organisations and student bodies.
Jahangir Mohammed, director of the Centre for Muslim Affairs, said the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act had made the entire Muslim community feel targeted. “Counter-terrorism policies are flawed and alienating,” he said. “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 legitimise 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.”