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Last Updated: Friday, 5 August, 2005, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Blair extremism measures: reaction
Politicians, police, campaigners and community leaders give their responses to Tony Blair's plans to deport foreign nationals who encourage terrorism and ban the Islamic organisations Hizb ut Tahrir and Al-Muhajiroun.

SHAMI CHAKRABARTI, DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP LIBERTY

He [Tony Blair] rightly says that he's been a great one for tough talk and tougher legislation, and yet his approach hasn't changed at all. He seems to have learned nothing from recent events.

It seems he no longer has much truck for fundamental human rights at all and he's talking quite actively about deporting people to face torture around the world - that is completely unacceptable and plays into the hands of terrorists.

Also the idea of criminalising those who condone, glorify or justify terrorism anywhere in the world is now on his shopping list - deeply dangerous, deeply counterproductive.

We don't win by mimicking the profound authoritarianism of those who are plotting against this country. I think it is very worrying that the Prime Minster has jeopardised our national unity today both in terms of community relations and in terms of consensus politics.

DAVID DAVIS, SHADOW HOME SECRETARY

It is vital that the home secretary is able to use his powers to deport or exclude non-UK citizens who threaten our national security - we have been calling for him to use these for some time. There is no reason why they cannot be applied as soon as possible.

We will study closely the home secretary's list of unacceptable behaviours during what is a very short consultation period.

In order that all "unacceptable behaviours" are properly considered, it is vital that the government ensures all relevant organisations are consulted adequately.

SIR IQBAL SACRANIE, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN

The MCB holds no brief for Hizb ut Tahrir - they are a group with whom the mainstream Muslim community has strong and well known disagreements concerning participation in our political process.

However, banning Hizb ut Tahrir is certainly not the solution and may well prove to be counterproductive. We understand that Hizb ut Tahrir in the United Kingdom are an avowedly non-violent group.

If there are groups that are thought to be contravening our laws, then they ought to be prosecuted in courts of law, not driven underground. Our democratic values need to be upheld, not undermined.

In addition, we are seeking clarification from the government to ensure that expressions of support for people who are living under brutal military occupation is not to be outlawed. That would be completely unacceptable.

Our faith of Islam commands us to speak out against injustice wherever it occurs. To prohibit support for oppressed peoples would make us complicit in the injustice and would have dire consequences for the upholding of international legality.

IMRAN WAHEED, SPOKESMAN FOR HIZB UT TAHRIR BRITAIN

There will be serious repercussions in terms of community relations if this ban goes ahead.

We have a lot of support among the Muslim community in Britain and it will be seen by the Muslim community as stifling legitimate political dissent.

Hizb ut Tahrir is a non-violent political party. It has had a history of non-violence for the last 50 years and these measures are like what we have seen in Uzbekistan where President Karimov has been burning his political opponents alive.

Our members are all for political expression, not for violence. We have been very clear about that and we will fight any ban through the legal system. We will continue our work. Our work is totally non-violent.

Our views are very similar to those in the Muslim community. We want an end to Western interference in Muslim countries.

This is nothing to do with not liking the country. We were born in Britain and there is nothing precluding a Muslim from a being a decent citizen in this country.

By doing this, he [Mr Blair] is setting an example to the tyrant rulers of the Muslim world, encouraging them to further suppress their populations.

CHARLES KENNEDY, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER

The public mood has certainly shifted on the question of whether we should allow foreign nationals who incite violence to enter or stay in the UK.

However, today's list of announcements has put the cross-party consensus under serious strain.

The Government agreed to properly consult opposition parties on their proposals, but this agreement seems to have broken down.

No mention was made of the proposals during a briefing the Liberal Democrats received from the Home Office yesterday and it appears that even they may not have been aware of the prime minister's plans.

The Liberal Democrats will examine the detail of these measures, but the prime minister should not count on our support.

We shall reserve our position until we have consulted properly ourselves - albeit against a constrained August timetable.

KEN JONES, CHAIRMAN OF THE ASSOCIATION OF CHIEF POLICE OFFICERS AND CHIEF CONSTABLE OF SUSSEX POLICE

We have already been in discussion with government on these proposals and agree with the principles set out in the prime minister's statement today.

The details will need to be worked out in accordance with the consultation process, but we feel there is scope for taking firm action, within the law, to ensure that the small numbers of people involved in this pernicious activity are effectively dealt with.

The police service will be ready to play its part in this work.

However it is equally important to remember that the people likely to be involved in such action are not reflective of the vast majority of Muslims or anyone else in this country.

Police forces have been particularly impressed over the past month by the way in which all communities have come together and reacted in a calm, measured way to what has happened.

There have of course been tensions and incidents, and some of that continues. Police are working closely with communities and reacting robustly to incidents.

But overall we are cautiously optimistic that common sense and respect for fellow citizens is prevailing.

ERIC METCALFE, OF HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP JUSTICE

A British court would never accept a diplomatic assurance from a country that tortures its own citizens.

Any attempt to amend the Human Rights Act to force courts to do otherwise is doomed to failure.

A free society doesn't fight terrorists by exporting them to other countries. It prosecutes them here in the UK.

OMAR FAROOQ, OF THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF BRITAIN

Overall the Muslim people of Britain welcome the action on the part of our government.

[The ban Hizb ut Tahrir] causes me concern because I think this organisation has been losing ground over the years.

It's lost a lot of credibility and now by this announcement it might make their popularity rise more. It is a failing organisation which really shouldn't have been on our government's radar screen.

I remember to 1997, where there was a massacre in Egypt and 19 tourists were killed. I asked why did the government allow these sort of people first to enter our country and secondly to use it as a base to damage the image of Islam and Muslims.

And I'm glad that a decade or so on the government are finally taking action to deal with this menace.

We are frustrated to the bone with some of these people in the name of our great religion, in the name of our way of life, going day after day and causing damage to our way of life here.

Day after day these lunatics on our behalf go onto the broadsheets, on to the television screens and are really messing up our lives here. We don't want that to happen.

OMAR BAKRI MOHAMMED, CLERIC WITH AL-MUHAJIROUN ORGANISATION

If the new law is going to go ahead it's no problem, but to make it backdated, that's crazy.

For the last 20 years I was preaching in this country. Why never arrest me? Why never charge me? Why never say that it's illegal. Now you make it illegal fair enough. Why do you want to go and backdate it?

That is completely crazy. You could do it now, say that is our stand today, you live with us and you appreciate the same the law and values we have or leave.

But don't tell me now, 'I'm going to deport you because of what you said last year'. OK, if that's the case let us go, after all we can worship God here, we can worship God back home.

KEN LIVINGSTONE, MAYOR OF LONDON

I support laws banning people or organisations that support terrorist attacks such as we saw on 7 July.

I also support measures against those who incite racial or religious hatred.

Any laws must be precisely worded to deal with the terrorist threat without criminalising those who are our allies in fighting it.

Unfortunately, the wording presently reported is so vague that 20 years ago it would have meant banning Nelson Mandela or anyone supporting him.



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