Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Banning Islam4UK: Why it matters, and why it doesn't

Tomorrow the ban making Islam4UK illegal in the UK will come into place. The blogosphere has been full of chatter about this and what it means, with many suggesting the ban means nothing. This is not entirely true. Islam4UK has operated in the UK under various names over the past several years. They have been banned before (under previous names) and have always managed to pop back up, advocating sharia and beheadings at various locations across Britain. Anjem Choudary and his 'followers' displayed 'behead those who insult Islam' signs outside the Danish Embassy, they verbally attacked soldiers as they marched through a small English town after a tour in Afghanistan, they held various 'roadshows' in London promoting Sharia, and most recently they announced they were going to stage a march in Wootton Bassett. [Wootton Bassett is where the bodies of soldiers killed in Aghanistan are repatriated.] Despite their known ties to Omar Bakri Momhammed and their clear agenda to impose Sharia law in Britain, the government allowed their activities to continue. The media also gave Choudary tremondous amounts of attention, lavishing him with interviews and headlines which only served to inflate his stature. While there is little doubt Choudary is a mediawhore, one cannot discount Islam4UK's aims to impose Sharia and their ties to terror groups (although now according to the government they too are a terrorist group).

Why does it matter that the UK has banned Islam4UK? What is important is not that Islam4UK was banned - but why it was banned. Choudary and his goons were pushing the envelope for months without consequence, however when they announced their plans to march through Wootton Bassett carrying fake coffins the British people (apparently there still are a few left) said ENOUGH. The last time I remember this much public outrage in Britain is Sachsgate (when Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross called the beloved British actor and made lurid jokes about his grand-daughter). With an election not far off and support for Labour sinking faster than the Titanic the government could use a little goodwill from the public. Banning a terror supporting group that is abhorred by the British people is a small way to say "we hear you and we are standing up to extremists." And this is why it matters - because the outrage in Britain forced the government's hand.

Unfortunately banning Islam4UK is a grand gesture of little consequence. Anjem Choudary is relishing the spotlight and, as The Jawa Report indicated today, Islam4UK's website is still up and running. This group has been around the block before, and whether they are called Islam4UK or St. Trinian's4Shariah they will continue to operate. The government has taken a stand (ahem) against this group before, exiling their leader Omar Bakri Mohammed, which seemed to have little if any impact. Today's newspapers are full of headlines about Islam4UK - with particular attention being paid to Choudary's threat of terror attacks as retaliation for the banning. Many editorials are questioning the government's decision to ban the group.

The UK is losing the battle against extremism and terror. Banning Islam4UK is a symbolic move of little consequence. The same day this news was announced an EU court ruled that the UK's anti-terror stop and search laws are illegal. These laws allow(ed) police to stop and search individuals without grounds - for example as they were entering the tube station. A friend of mine was searched under these laws at Finsbury Park tube station. After the police searched him they handed him a leaflet explaining the legislation under which he was searched, then told him he was selected because they needed a white person so they could avoid being accused of profiling. If this is how Britain plans to fight terror, by enacting laws and then wasting their time searching people they do not find suspicious simply because they are afraid someone will cry raaaaaaaaaaacist they might as well put up the white flag now.

Today the newspapers report the banning of Islam4UK. The next time a terror attack occurs in the UK (because sadly one likely will), many of these papers will carry editorials analyzing its cause. Just as editorials and op-eds on the 7/7 bombings used Britain's relationship with the Great Satan (America) and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to rationalize the jihadi mindset, you will likely read pieces lamenting the British government's treatment of minorities - and perhaps the banning of Islam4UK will come up alongside accusations that these young men were forced 'underground' where they were 'radicalized' because they could no longer 'express themselves.' For every group the government bans, another groups exists - Hizb ut Tahrir is fully operational and London faces no shortage of hate spewing radicals or Anwar al Awlaki supporting "charities". And this is why banning Islam4UK does not matter.

But Britain also has citizens who find all of this a bit overwhelming. People who are saying enough is enough. People who could not contain their outrage at the thought of extremists making a mockery of the sacred place where the bodies of Britain's brave soldiers are repatriated. People who pushed the government to take action - and this is why banning Islam4UK matters.