The Home Secretary today quietly dropped his controversial plans to give police the power to shut down mosques being used by extremists.
The proposal was originally part of Tony Blair’s 12-point plan to combat terror after the July 7 London bombings, but a consultation produced a negative reaction from top police officers and the Muslim community.
Charles Clarke said in a written statement to MPs today: “I will not seek to legislate on this issue at the present time, although we will keep the matter under review.”
Mr Clarke published detailed plans in October, proposing that police should have powers to temporarily close down places of worship – such as mosques – which were being used by extremists.
The trustee or registered owner of a place of worship would be issued with an order – obtained from a court by the police – requiring them to take steps to stop such behaviour, the document said. Failing to do so would be a criminal offence.
If the activity persisted, police could apply to the court for a “restriction of use order” which could temporarily close all or part of the premises.
The consultation paper said the new powers would be a “last resort” and police would attempt to solve problems at any place of worship with members of the community.
But earlier this month the Association of Chief Police Officers said the proposed measures risked alienating ordinary Muslims and driving extremism underground.
And in November, a group of Islamic experts appointed by Mr Clarke in the wake of July 7 said the measures could be arbitrary and open to “possible misuse”.
In a report they said: “The proposal on closing certain mosques rather than simply prosecuting the criminality in those mosques could deprive a whole congregation from benefiting from a provision they may have heavily invested in because of a few fanatics misusing their facilities.”
A Home Office spokesman said 66 people and organisations responded to the consultation and the majority were negative.
Assistant Chief Constable of Hertfordshire Rob Beckley, an Acpo spokesman on counter-terrorism, said in his response: “Acpo does not support the enactment of legislation of the type proposed.
“In the opinion of Acpo, there would need to be significant changes to the intentions and wording of the legislation for it to be either desirable or enforceable.”
The Rev Graham Sparkes of the Baptist Union of Great Britain commented: “Over the centuries, many Baptists experienced persecution, discrimination and imprisonment at the hands of the state, in order to secure control over what was preached, where it could be preached, and who could preach.
“We would be very sensitive towards any proposals that put these hard won freedoms under threat.”
General secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, said in his submission: “We … feel that mosques are being misidentified and stereotyped as incubators of violent extremism, while the social reality is that they serve as centres of moderation.
“The bombers were indoctrinated by a subculture outside the mosque. The notion of influential ‘back-door’ mosques is a figment of the imagination.”
He added: “Our belief is that a major factor in the rise and spread of the current tide of terrorism is rooted in our foreign policy and in the double standards of our Government in its dealings in the Middle East in partnership with the government of the US. We urge you to accept this fact.”
“We ask you to take urgent remedial action so that our citizens, here as well as in the rest of the world, do not become targets of criminals and murderers who parade as political activists but who surely are nothing other than terrorists.”Morag Mylne, convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church in Scotland, said: “The power suggested seems to us to amount to a desire to ‘get someone, anyone’.
“We think there is no point trying to adjust or amend the proposal. We believe it should be abandoned forthwith.”
Daily Archives: December 18, 2005
The Home Secretary today quietly dropped his controversial plans to give police the power to shut down mosques being used by extremists.
Hundreds of officers were sent to potential trouble spots after Sunday’s race riots on a beach popular with white Australians and men of Arab descent. Gangs of Lebanese men retaliated by rampaging through suburban streets and attacking cars and buildings.
Morris Iemma, the premier of New South Wales, said that police would pay special attention to places of worship and schools. “We have to be on guard for this. These hooligans will not destroy the fabric of our society,” he said.
Mr Iemma said that a 500-strong riot squad would be deployed to deal with racially inspired violence. He introduced new laws giving police special powers to lock down parts of Sydney and search and confiscate vehicles, a move aimed at ending “smash and bash” raids involving carloads of youths of Middle Eastern origin.
Yesterday’s fire in a church hall next to an Islamic centre in the suburb of Macquarie Fields, and an incident at a primary school in Auburn where parents were abused at a carol concert and shots fired into cars, represents a dangerous escalation of this week’s unrest. Police could not confirm if the fire was linked to the violence.
Peace talks were held between representatives of Middle Eastern communities and surf groups in the beachside suburb of Cronulla, where last weekend’s running battles began. They issued a joint declaration calling for an end to the clashes. Sources insisted that there were no ringleaders organising the violence and said that text messages were being sent urging an end to it.
Brad Whittaker, a local surfer, apologised for the behaviour of some white Australians last Sunday. “The day began as a show of solidarity against behaviour of ethnic gangs that have been harassing the public on our beaches over a period of seven years,” he explained. “It escalated out of control under the influence of right-wing racists from outside this community and alcohol.”
Representatives of the wider Arab community called for a weekend curfew to stop further racial violence. Parents were urged to keep their children at home after 9pm on Friday and Saturday and all day Sunday.
Elie Nassif, of the Lebanese Community Council, said that the measures would help to ease tensions. “We have to protect Australia no matter whether you’re born here or you come from overseas.”
My comment: It’s curious, note that nothing is said about the state in which the Church is anow, who burned it, or was suspected of having burned it. I wonder what would have happened if the white racists would have stormed into a mosque and burned it. Ooh, and very curious what this “representant” of the Lebanes Comunity says: one should ask what Asutralia they want to protect. I do not think I would like Australia to become a place where someone could ask you, if you’re a woman/girl, “are you a virgin?”, just because being in bathing costume…. And that surfer has summed up very well the situation: they have been harrasing the population for ¡¡¡SEVEN YEARS!!! My goodness. And then the police said they were not detaining this people, to prevent them to begin riots.
BRITAIN and America are planning a phased withdrawal of their forces from Iraq as soon as a permanent government is installed in Baghdad after this week’s elections.
In a move that has caused alarm in the outgoing Iraqi administration, American and British officials have made clear that they regard the end of Iraq’s two-and-a-half-year transitional period as the green light to begin withdrawing some of their combined force of around 170,000 troops as early as March.
A senior Western diplomat in Baghdad said yesterday: “One of the first things we will talk about (with the new Iraqi government) is the phased transfer of security, particularly in cities and provinces. It will happen progressively over the next year.”
America has more than 160,000 troops in central and northern Iraq, and Britain about 8,000 based in four southern provinces. Contingency plans are already in place for the small British contingents in the two provinces of Dhiqar and Muthana to go as early as the spring.
The third to go will be Misan province, a far more restive region. A senior British officer said that Iraqi security forces might be able to “keep a lid on the violence” by the end of this year.
The Americans have increased their troop levels to help to bolster security for the elections on Thursday. But they are planning to pull out 30,000 by the new year and may reduce their presence below 100,000 in the coming months. US forces have already handed over security in Najaf and Karbala provinces and in city centres such as Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town.
The moves appear to run contrary to statements by President Bush and John Reid, the Defence Secretary, who insist that coalition forces will not “cut and run” and will stay until the mission in Iraq is complete.
Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, told The Times yesterday that a hasty exit risked plunging the country into a new bout of violence.
“Those who advocate an early withdrawal do not know what is at stake. The huge investment in blood and money sacrificed by the US could be squandered.
“There would be regional interventions by neighbouring countries and others. The fate of this country and the whole region could be endangered,” he said.
The move to hand over security to the 225,000 Iraqi soldiers and police who have now been trained for active duty comes in the face of mounting public pressure in both Britain and the US to disengage from Iraq, amid the rising death toll and spiralling costs.
An opinion poll conducted for the BBC in Iraq found that only 10 per cent regarded the removal of US troops from the country as the priority for the new government. The public has doubts about the ability of the Iraqi security forces, in particular the police, which is riddled with militia, and the army, which lacks equipment, training and leadership.
An example? The most recent E’: a girl Bengali of twelve years – second average – discovers itself married with a also Bengali boy of fourteen years. And this without that it moves from Vicenza where lives from eight years with the family of immigrates to you muslim, and without that the boy makes a step towards Italy. They have thought next to all the parents of he and she. Now, but, the dodicenne it cannot participate to the festivities of the friends, to attend school companions, to approach boys and girls of other religions and other countries, it must sobbarcarsi the house jobs, must digiunare when glielo they impose even if not of it can more from the hunger, is forced to make the tasks to late evening in the month of ramadam the etc. In the point that, reached the esasperazione, with a forbicina in a toilette of the school tries the suicide cutting itself the veins to the wrists since more do not succeed sopportare the separation and the solitudine. One does not forget that to school – where it is between best – it cannot design, because the Islam not chip ax the figures. Ahead in the years it will be able also to discover far away of being one between the mogli of its husband quattordicenne.
Thanks, Mr. Ruini parish priest. And the Italian girls lascino not to infatuare itself from the faces and the exotic customs of the Muslims. Perhaps the saying is excessive “moglie and buoi of the countries yours”. But a truth spirit contains it.
This is an automatic traslation from italian done by Bablefish (sorry, I understand Italian but really cannot translate it, although I think everyone can understand it)
I WAS told I would be only 30ft from Saddam Hussein, the closest I have ever been to the dictator who owned my life for three decades. But in the event, all I can see across the courtroom is a skinny old man sitting in a cage.
Next to me two other Iraqi translators are sweating and looking very nervous. It’s five minutes before the trial begins, and the three of us are about to start a simultaneous translation on day three of Saddam Hussein’s trial, but not one of us has yet stepped up to the microphone.
But who wasn’t one of his victims? Isn’t this the man who caused all that suffering to me and my people? Isn’t it the man who banned me three years ago from travelling to see my father in his last days, when he was dying abroad? Wasn’t he the man behind the Iraq-Iran War, during which my uncle was killed?
Wasn’t he the source of all the fear we lived in for decades, forcing many of my relatives, including my brother, to leave the country?
After five minutes I realised that this old man sitting in the defendants’ cage in front of me was not the person I used to hate. He is another person. The man I see looks completely different from that man who used to appear on TV in his army uniform, holding a pistol and shooting in the air as if he were aiming at creatures on another planet because he had got bored of killing Iraqis.
This man in the courtroom has to wait for his turn to talk, otherwise his mike will be turned off. Saddam never had to wait for his turn because it was his turn for decades, and there was no time for anyone else to say anything.
It may look to outsiders as if he has taken control, shouting at the judge. But up close you can see desperation in his eyes.
The witness was talking about people getting tortured and killed collectively, talking about losing brothers and loved ones, but that is still going on. Iraqis are still getting killed and tortured, still losing their loved ones. Nothing has changed yet.
Iraq’s main problem wasn’t simple enough to be about one man called Saddam. It wasn’t just about this old man sitting in his cage. It was about an entire regime, an international community turning a blind eye to things that fit with its strategies. It was about children dying of hunger during the years of sanctions, whether because of Saddam or not. It is about innocent people losing their lives through weapons, national and multinational.
It is about a very dangerous gamble on the fate of a country by the West that isn’t yet “mission accomplished”, as President Bush once claimed.
You can continue reading here.
A little comment: with all my respect, without the intervention this man would still be torturing, killing, maiming, raping, etc, etc, your parents. The fact that now he has to wait for “for his turn to talk, otherwise his mike will be turned off”, is simply a consequence of that intervention. It’s true that people are dying just now, BUT the difference is that people who die now are killed by people who are not in power, who are just criminals and can be driven to court the momment they are detained by the police. Saddam IS also a criminal, but he was in power, so he could make what he wanted into law.
Lastly, would the situation have changed if all public opinions in Europe, for example, would have supporting the intervention against a dictator and not the poor Saddam? I think this is quite the most important question we have to ask ourselves now.
The landmark decision by seven law lords unanimously dealt a fresh blow to the Government’s fight against terrorism. After the July 7 bombings, the Prime Minister had pledged that the “rules of the game” on dealing with terrorists had changed.
Last night investigators and prosecuting authorities were preparing to re-examine at least 30 pending cases before a secret immigration court to see whether evidence has been extracted by torture.
Defence lawyers have seized on the ruling to question the sources of allegation against defendants facing criminal charges in a series of prosecutions.
One man accused of involvement in a plan to carry out a lorry bomb attack alleges that he was tortured during ten months in custody in Pakistan. He is one of several defendants in a terrorist trial scheduled to begin in the new year.
Security services must now establish that evidence used before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) is not obtained by torture, the law lords ruled. If courts think “on a balance of probabilities” that it was, they must rule it out.
The law lords’ decision was hailed by human rights organisations as a landmark for justice throughout the democratic world. But Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, said that it would not affect the fight against terrorism or the 25 people in jail facing deportation on grounds of national security and a further five terrorism suspects held under a form of house arrest.
“The Government has always made clear that we do not condone torture in any way, nor would we carry out this completely unacceptable behaviour or encourage others to do so,” he said.
“We have always made clear that we do not intend to rely on or present evidence in SIAC which we know or believe to have been obtained by torture.”
Gareth Peirce, the lawyer for eight detainees affected by the ruling, said: “We lost our way morally and legally with the claim by the Home Secretary that he would use torture evidence in this country and with the Court of Appeal judgment that endorsed that.”
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, which intervened in the appeal with 12 other organisations, said: “If we continue to peel away the layers of protection against torture, we will find a gaping void where our democratic values used to be.”
Lords Bingham of Cornhill, Nicholls of Birkenhead, Hoffmann, Hope of Craighead, Rodger of Earlsferry, Carswell and Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood allowed the appeals of the eight detainees held without charge against a majority Court of Appeal ruling.
The law lords made abundantly clear that English principles should not be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism.
In unusually strong criticism of his junior judicial colleagues, Lord Bingham said: “The English common law has regarded torture and its fruits with abhorrence for over 500 years and that abhorrence is now shared by over 140 countries which have acceded to the torture convention”.
You can continue reading here.