Endless anti-terror laws and anti-Muslim rhetoric are in danger of creating a witch-hunt scenario against Muslims, according to supporters of a strongly worded public statement signed by representatives of Britain’s Muslim community.
The statement comes in the wake of revelations earlier this week that the British Home Office is thinking of launching a “more assertive” campaign against Muslim extremism. It would include penalizing benefit claimants who do not learn English and forcing those applying for UK visas to commit to “British values.”
The signatories accuse the British government of “criminalizing” Islam and silencing “legitimate critique and dissent” in what it says is “the ongoing demonization of Muslims in Britain [and] their values, as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organizations.”
“We reject the portrayal of Muslims and the Muslim community as a security threat. The latest act of parliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nursery workers, schoolteachers and universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalisation,’” the statement reads.
“Such a narrative will only further damage social cohesion as it incites suspicion and ill feeling in the broader community,” it says.
The statement says that exploiting public fears about security is as dishonorable as scapegoating immigrants, and deflects attention from real issues facing the country – such as the economy and the National Health Service (NHS). The exploitation of such fears plays into the hands of the big political parties who will “try and outdo each other in their nastiness” in the run-up to elections.
The statement cast a light on “endless anti-terror laws.” Since 2000, there have been 10 separate pieces of legislation which have given huge powers to the state and fueled media hysteria.
The list of over 70 signatories includes Moazzam Begg – a former Guantanamo Bay inmate and current outreach director for Cage, an independent advocacy organization which aims to empower communities affected by the war on terror. Islamic thinkers – such as Arzu Merali from the Islamic Human Rights Commission and Musharraf Hussain, chief imam of the Karimia Institute and an advisor at the Quilliam Foundation – also signed the petition.
Signatories also included members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist organization regarded as controversial. It is banned in several countries, including Germany.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) did not put its name to the statement, saying the organization found it difficult to sign because it represents 500 mosques with different opinions. However, individual members of the MCB did sign it.
Tauriq Ishaq, a senior spokesman for the Muslim Action Forum (MAF), told the Guardian that many Muslims are feeling alienated and disillusioned.
“People are being asked to compromise their faith and many feel there is no alternative here. The current environment has contributed to issues like young people leaving to go to Syria,” he said.
The signatories also drew attention to the double standards of the UK government, which lectures about peace building while also maintaining support for brutal regimes and dictators in many Muslim countries when the government stands to benefit from such actions.