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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 03:12 GMT 04:12 UK


Tense wait for British Muslims

The eight Britons on trial will learn their fate on Monday

On Monday, eight British nationals standing trial, accused of terrorist activities in the Yemen will learn their fate.

Click here for a timeline of the trial

The delayed verdict in the trial of Mohammed Kamel, 17, Mohsin Ghalain, 18, both from London, Malik Nassar, 26, Samad Ahmed, 21, Shahid Butt, 33, Shazad Nabi, 20, and Ayad Hussein, 24, all from Birmingham, and Ghulam Hussein, 25, from Luton, Bedfordshire, along with two men of Algerian descent, will be given in the city of Aden.

The British Muslim community is tensely awaiting the verdict - and the repercussions it may feel as a result.

Most feel that convictions are inevitable, many that justice has not been done - others, that the emphasis of the campaign for the men on trial has been wrong.

'Kangaroo court'

[ image: Shahid Butt: His supporters say he was only in the Yemen to learn Arabic]
Shahid Butt: His supporters say he was only in the Yemen to learn Arabic
The court process - which has at best been described as "chaotic", at worst as a "breach of international treatises on human rights" - has been a disjointed, stop-start affair which began at the end of January.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Great Britain said that its prime concern throughout has been the fairness of the trial.

"We wanted the British and Yemeni authorities to ensure fairness and justice, but instead we have seen this situation where a kangaroo court seems to be operating," he said.

A perceived lack of intervention by the British authorities has caused frustration to many.

Accusations of racism

[ image: The trial in Aden has been described as
The trial in Aden has been described as "chaotic"
Abdul Rahman, of the Young Muslims, stated earlier this year, that had the men detained in the Yemen been white, "strings would have been pulled" to get them home.

He said: "When it came to the case of the Saudi nurses or Louise Woodward, for that matter, there was a huge outcry for the return of those people to the UK.

"It is widely felt that the government could do a lot more for these young people in the Yemen if it wanted to."

The editorial of Muslim News, draws attention to Robin Cook's recent intervention in the case of 13 Iranian Jews who were arrested in April and accused of spying.

The newspaper says that while Mr Cook made representations to the government of Iran, seeking assurances of "due legal process", no such representations have been made to the Yemeni authorities on behalf of the Britons on trial there.

The leader continues: "So interference in the internal affairs of Iran is legitimate but in Yemen it is not. Our government cannot demand due process of law in Yemen but it can in Iran.

"_ Does our government have two standards - one for Muslims and one for other faiths? In the Yemeni case, those arrested are British citizens. They happen to be Muslims."

Double standards?

But Faisal Bodi, News Editor of Q Magazine, said that had the eight men been white, middle class, and had the backing of the government, the same Muslim community which is now shouting foul play would instead be "crying colonial arrogance".

He said: "You can't have it all ways - the Muslim community needs to adopt an even approach to these things.

"These people have had some fairly serious charges levelled against them - and they have to be faced somewhere.

"And I cannot personally see what the Yemen has to gain from falsely accusing or setting anyone up.

"We also need to look at the attraction of fundamentalism for the young - the attraction that people like Abu Hamza [whose son, Mohammed Mustafa Kamel is one of the eight awaiting a verdict in the Yemen] have for them. That is an internal problem that needs to be addressed.


[ image:
"British people equate Muslim dress and custom with fanaticism and terrorism"
"There will undoubtedly be repercussions of this case for all members of the Muslim community in Britain, I think most people are resigned to that."

Editor of Muslim News, Ahmed Versi told BBC News Online that "Islamophobia" is a real issue for Britain's Muslim community.

He said that historically, the community has been "demonised".

"It's like a latent virus," he said, "It is always there waiting to be triggered into action - you just need one event, like Salman Rushdie's book or the Gulf War, and the discrimination starts afresh.

"It's like every single piece of negative world news is seen to reflect the views of the British Muslim community. They just reinforce negative attitudes and serve to confirm people's prejudices."

He said that reporting of these events was largely to blame. "Islamic terrorist or Islamic fanatic are phrases without meaning.

"Yes, there are terrorists who are Muslims, there are also Hindu terrorists, Sikh terrorists, Christian terrorists - you just don't hear anything about them.

"The Muslim community as a whole does not condone terrorism or violence. Yet we are perceived as members of a violent sect.

"The frustrating and sad reality is that many British people equate Muslim dress and custom with fanaticism and terrorism.

"It is just assumed that those boys in the Yemen are guilty. The attempts to get justice for them would have been much stronger, I am sure, if people did not carry this cultural stereotype."

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