It seems that the British Government’s response to most terror related events is to blame the Muslim community and Islam. Home Secretary, Theresa May, recently threatened to draw up a list of mosques where terrorist suspects will be banned from worshipping. It could be said that the targeting of mosques by the Government is nothing short of state-sponsored persecution to compensate for the incompetence of their security services. This is not the first time that measures such as this have been undertaken. The former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, in October 2005, considered giving the police controversial powers to close down mosques if they fail to comply with an order to prevent them being used for extremism even although evidence for mosques being the source of extremism was never found.
The latest quick-fix response came after the British security services lost suspect Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, who is allegedly linked to Somali militant group al-Shabab, when he escaped from a West London mosque by reportedly donning the disguise of a burqa. He was being monitored under the new control order: the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIMs).
His escape seems to have been the fault of police monitoring under the terms of his control order and was the second case of its king the space of ten months. If it had happened elsewhere, perhaps in a department store, would May consider similar bans on those department stores?
In a briefing to MPs earlier this month, Director of the Government’s Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, Charles Farr, claimed (without evidence) that some suspects subjected to TPIMs may have “exploited” mosque visits. “The Home Secretary has raised the view that amongst the restrictions that could be and should be imposed on TPIMs subjects, prohibition in certain or all mosques may be one,” Farr said. He added that those targeted would be determined by “understanding from each TPIMs person which mosques they frequent.”
Farr also added that the Government is considering stripping foreign terror suspects as well as British citizens of their British citizenship. Mohamed was originally presented travel documents by the British Embassy to return to the UK when he was deported from Somaliland in 2011 because he did not have a British passport with him. Since then he has been subjected to TPIMs.
The question remains why the Government is again targeting Muslim religious institutions in the ‘war against terrorism’. Is there any evidence that any mosques have broken the law, or were actively involved in terrorism or in the support of terrorism? If so, the management should be appropriately charged and taken to court. If it is speculative and without basis, then why should Muslims pay for the failure of the security services? Does the Government not trust due process any more?
Who is going to police any future banning orders to mosques? Will the buck be passed to mosque officials? Will religious institutions have to hire private security and monitor every worshipper, male and female, that visits the mosque? Mosques, like Churches, Temples, Synagogues, Gurdwaras and other places of worship, are open to the public and give all members of public the right to enter for worship. Will there, therefore be two laws in this country, one for Muslims and their places of worship and another for other faiths?
What if the mosques refuse to take the role of policemen? Will they, as Clarke had proposed, be forced to close down? And what about the impact on community relations? Right wing extremists will have a field day as they will take to viewing every mosque as a potential hub for extremism. Due to this, attacks on mosques will increase. Bombs may be used once again as they were in Ramadan this year and result in a large number of Muslims being injured or killed.
The reason why the Coalition Government has the audacity to paint mosques as a source of extremism and terrorism is because Muslims are under siege and are leaderless. The Government would not dare treat other faith communities in this manner. When Clarke tried it in 2005 to target Temples, Churches, Synagogues, Gurdwaras and other places of worship, the response was so intense that he had to rescind his extremist policy.