A report in today’s Newsday tells of a meeting at London’s Finsbury Park mosque, where prominent Muslim leaders signed a statement condemning the 7-7 attacks, under a banner reading “A New Beginning.” But there was also a sign at the mosque warning gatherers that they were under government surveillance, and rather than a new beginning it looks more like the same old pattern is becoming more entrenched. The government is considering draconian “anti-terror” legislation, while Islamist hardliners gain legitimacy in reaction…
“Britain is tolerant and respectful of all religions, but that respect and tolerance does not extend to allowing people to incite violence and terrorism,” David Davis of the Conservative Party said yesterday after representatives of the country’s major parties agreed to push for sweeping new anti-terror laws.
The legislation, which still must be drafted, would muzzle radicals seen as promoting terrorism – for instance by praising suicide bombers – and would make it easier to deport those who are not British and to deny entry to those barred from other countries. It also would ban accessing terrorist Web sites and attending terrorist training camps.
“Britain has for too long been tolerant of the messengers of hate, many of whom have been foolishly admitted from abroad,” The Sunday Times of London said. “Action will now be taken. It is a pity that it took the deaths of more than 50 innocents to bring it about.”
On the sidewalk outside the mosque, followers of the radical Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has dubbed the proposed legislation the “Religious Hatred Bill,” passed out leaflets contrasting the outpouring of grief for London’s victims with the reaction to civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. “There are no vigils for the children of Afghanistan and no books of condolence to sign for the children of Iraq,” it said.
The group, outlawed in Russia, Germany, and Holland but allowed to operate in Britain, has refused to join more mainstream organizations in condemning the attacks.
Mohammed Kozbar, the mosque spokesman, said the mosque did not support the group but could not stop it from handing out leaflets.
Some liberal lawmakers and political observers have warned that the rush to respond to the attacks with new legislation could backfire.
Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, an international relations professor at the University of Sheffield and an expert on governments’ responses to terrorism, suggested it is better to keep perceived trouble-makers in the country, under surveillance, than to deport them or make it impossible for them to preach openly. “The effect of that is to drive them underground or to countries like Pakistan, where young Muslims are going to seek them out anyway,” she said.
At Finsbury Park, even among moderates, resentment already is high. “We are more victimized than anyone else really, because people are pointing their fingers at the Muslim community,” Kozbar said.
[Kenyan immigrant Daudi Mohammed] Yusuf agreed. “I’m annoyed,” he said angrily. “Do you accuse every German of being a slaughterer because of Hitler? Do you think every Italian is Mussolini? So why do you think every Muslim is Osama bin Laden?”
See our last post on the London bombings.