Journalist, Producer & Researcher

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Banning Extremist Groups: Productive or Counter-productive?

The Home Office's decision to ban Muslim Against Crusades is counter-productive and will have little effect on curbing the group's activities

On Friday November 11th 2011, British Home Secretary, Theresa May, banned extremist group Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) on the grounds of glorifying terrorism, which is an offence under the Terrorism Act. The decision to ban the group came as an attempt to prevent a repeat of last year’s Remembrance Day disruptions, when fifty individuals of MAC took part in burning poppies near Albert Hall in London clashing with far-right extremist group, the English Defence League (EDL).

The Blair government introduced the ‘glorification principle’ into the Terrorism Act 2006 granting Home Secretaries the power to ban groups whose expression and conduct could be construed as glorifying terrorism.

However, the Home Secretary’s decision has been criticised as one of desperation to counter the intensive negative coverage on the immigration checks fiasco and to avoid a second Armistice Day being marred by poppy burning extremists.

Despite the ban which came into effect from Friday which makes ''membership or support of MAC a criminal offence,'' the ban will have little effect on curbing MAC’s activities.

Is banning extremist groups the way forward in tackling terrorism?

Banning extremist groups whether it is Muslims Against Crusades or the English Defence League is counter-productive and will have little effect on stopping these groups from spreading their hate propaganda and disrupting community relations.

MAC was a renamed successor to already banned groups such as Islam4UK, Al-Muhajiroun and other proscribed organisations where the MAC leader, Anjem Choudary, was active in other ways. All had the same ideology and principles but as each was proscribed, a new group was formed. The same will happen for MAC. It will rebrand itself (if they haven’t already done so) and recommence their activities.

How to deal with extremists

How should the government tackle such groups? Banning groups will not stop its members and sympathisers from continuing with their message. The best way to stop extremist groups is to isolate them, challenge them in a robust and aggressive way and tackle the ideology behind such views.

MAC was given enormous publicity with their poppy burning incident last year which resulted in public outrage from communities across Britain including the Muslim community.

The EDL has been given platforms on mainstream media outlets such as the BBC to express such views.

This publicity will only serve as recruitment tools for these groups as well as motivate them to pursue their cause even further. By ignoring such groups and not allocating them extensive media coverage, you take away the power from them.

Tackling the ideology behind such views and getting down to the root causes of such extremist views is another method to deal with extremist groups. Labour’s Prevent strategy has been somewhat successful in addressing the root problems and the Coalition government’s revised Prevent has promised to tackle the ideology behind such groups to try to eradicate such views.

What about the EDL?

While the ban has been welcomed by many communities across the UK, there have been outcries by members of the British Public as to why only MAC and not the EDL was banned when both preach hate propaganda and values that are ‘un-British.’

Anders Breivik, the man behind the Norway attacks had strong links with the EDL and his motivations to carry out the Oslo attacks were strongly influenced by the ideology behind this far-right group. EDL’s demonstrations have also been known for violence and disrupting peace.

According to an article published by Left Foot Forward, there are also other groups which preach the same message as MAC and no action has been taken by the government to halt their activities.

For instance, Anjem Choudry had been been operating the ‘Centre for Islamic Services’ (CIS) from a building in Whitechapel owned by his big brother (Yazdani ‘Dani’ Choudary) for well over a year . Tower Hamlets council even allowed CIS to advertise in the council ‘East End Life’ paper for several months.MAC has also used the CIS to recruit supporters for their cause.

A crackdown on operations such as these would be productive rather than just implementing a ban on extremist groups.

It appears that the Home Secretary’s motivation to ban Muslim Against Crusades was merely to avoid an unpleasant Remembrance Day 2011 rather than a meaningful step forward in trying to combat extremism.

First Published by Suite101

Copyright Reyhana Patel. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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