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New terrorism act not about stopping terrorism

As the new Terrorism Act officially comes in to force, MPs, lawyers and a host of Muslim groups voiced their continued opposition to provisions in the Act that outlaw the ‘glorification’ of terrorism. The Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “The legislation is misguided and the whole concept of glorification is frankly absurd, and will end up entrapping the innocent and preventing legitimate debate.” The Muslim Safety Forum (MSF) an umbrella group of over 30 Muslim organisations released a statement saying, “The Clause on Glorification of Terrorism threatens to criminalise non-violent organisations, groups, Imams and individuals for supporting legitimate causes around the world and expressing political opinion.” Azad Ali, chair of the MSF said, “We have submitted over half a dozen examples where we feel innocent acts carried out by Muslims will fall foul of the law, this includes for example praying for those that are standing up against oppression and illegal occupation”.

The new anti-terror legislation was first proposed by Tony Blair after the devastating 7/7 bombings last year in which 56 people died. Naturally after such an event people will look to their politicians for reassurance that all that can be done to prevent such another attack is being done. Four weeks after the bombings Tony Blair announced the introduction of new measures to prevent future attacks. He said, "…there will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the Autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism.” However, as the Terrorism Act was debated and the full implications of some of the clauses became apparent, doubts began to grow over whether this new Act was in fact about actually stopping terrorism or was there some other agenda. John Falding whose girlfriend Anat Rosenberg died during the 7/7 attacks, told BBC Radio he thought the new laws were a public relations exercise. “Most of the (new) provisions are covered by existing legislation and my first thought was that this was just a bit of public relations by the government,” he said. “Suddenly we have this grand new anti-terrorism act. But then, when I look more closely at the provisions and see how widely they're drawn, I think there must be another agenda here. It's so catch-all. Ally this to other measures that the government have taken throughout the civil liberties field and I started to get concerned -- and I don't feel reassured that this is going to help us much in the fight against terrorism.”

These concerns are echoed by many within Britain, especially since the previous Terrorism Act 2000 has been so misused by the authorities. The ludicrous arrests of John Catt 81, Walter Wolfgang 82, and the four stars of the award-winning film “The Road to Guantanamo” at Luton Airport recently clearly highlight this. If this new anti-terror legislation was truly about preventing future terrorist attacks then why has the government introduced clauses that enable it to go after non-violent groups that have nothing to do with terrorism? Looking back prior to last July, would these new glorification and proscription clauses have helped to prevent the attacks? None of the four bombers were members of any Islamic non-violent Muslim groups, and none of them had made statements ‘glorifying’ terrorism. Even their own wives and mothers did not know their views and intentions.

People’s faith in the British criminal justice system is already at an all time low, with muggers, rapists, wife-beaters and burglars being let off with minor non-custodial sentences and those actually sent to prison being released less than half way through their sentences. The prison population is spiralling out of control and scarce police resources are already stretched very thinly. If these resources are now diverted in to targeting Muslims and groups with no link to terrorism and violence, away from actually targeting ‘real’ criminals, then it’s a very dangerous situation for ordinary people in Britain. Is the British government willing to see its prisons emptied of convicted criminals, whilst they are filled with innocent Muslims whose crime is no more than to speak out against oppression and in support of those resisting occupation? If this is the case then the new Terrorism Act rather than making Britain a safer place will make Britain a far more dangerous place to live in.