UK bans controversial Islamist group

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : The British government Tuesday banned an Islamist group that had planned to march through a town with empty coffins to protest the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Support TwoCircles

The order banning the Islam4UK will come into force Thursday, when being a member of the group will become a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

After fierce condemnations from across Britain, the group Sunday cancelled plans to hold a march through Wootton Bassett – a small town that regularly honours British soldiers killed in foreign wars.

British Home Minister Alan Johnson said Tuesday: “I have today laid an order which will proscribe al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK, and a number of the other names the organisation goes by.”

“It is already proscribed under two other names — al-Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect.

“Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism and is not a course we take lightly. We are clear that an organisation should not be able to circumvent proscription by simply changing its name.”

Islam4UK leader Anjum Chaudhry said his group had been “singled out for criticising British foreign policy”.

Denying the outfit or its members were involved in terrorism, Chaudhry told the BBC: “The word terrorism means the use of violence against the community. I have been saying that’s precisely what this government is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The ban came a day after five British Muslim men were convicted for accusing British soldiers of being rapists, murderers and baby killers during a military homecoming parade last year in the town of Luton, around 60 km north of London.

District judge Carolyn Mellanby said: “I have no doubt it is abusive and insulting to tell soldiers to �Go to Hell’, to call soldiers murderers, rapists and baby killers. It is not just insulting to the soldiers but to the citizens of Luton who were out on the streets that day to welcome soldiers home.”

Prosecutor Avirup Chaudhuri said that as the local regiment passed, having served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the group of protesters jeered “British Army murderers”, and “Baby killers”.