January 13th, 2010
04:46 PM ET

Around the Web: Reaction to the banning of an Islamic group in Britain

A decision by the British government to ban Al-Muhajiroun, a controversial Muslim group that planned to stage an anti-war march through a town that receives British war dead, elicited a range of reactions.

The group's leader, controversial British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary, had threatened to stage a march in the town of Wootton Bassett as a protest against the war in Afghanistan. The group - also known as Islam4UK - has since canceled its plan for the march, Reuters and the BBC reported.

The bodies of British war dead are traditionally brought to Wootton Bassett, near a Royal Air Force base, when they are returned to the country.

Al-Muhajiroun is already banned under two other names in the Terrorism Act 2000 - Al-Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect. British Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the ban would now also apply to "a number" of the other names the group goes by.

“Mainstream Muslim leaders accused the government of political posturing over the decision,” reported the Financial Times. “The Muslim Council of Britain said most members of the Islamic community found the views of such groups abhorrent. But al-Muhajiroun would simply re-emerge under a different name."

Inayat Bunglawala, the founder of Muslims4Uk, “a group set up to celebrate the UK's democratic traditions and promote active Muslim engagement in our society,” according to the Guardian, questioned the decision in that publication.

“The appropriate way to deal with the actions of al-Muhajiroun members is surely transparently and through our legal system,” Bunglawala wrote.

“If individuals are known to have incited violence then they should be prosecuted. But we should be very wary of giving our government the arbitrary power to ban entire organizations."

 The Telegraph, in a commentary, said the ban was not enough, calling it “something of a pointless gesture” and an “easy option.”

“A tougher one would require greater political will than we have seen hitherto,” the commentary said. “If there is evidence of direct terrorist involvement, then the organizers should be prosecuted: there are treason laws that can be used against British citizens who give "aid and comfort" to our enemies.

“At the very least, we should not be paying them benefits; and any member who is not a British subject should be deported.”

James Gray, a Parliament member, told the BBC that the group’s plan was a “media stunt.”

 "[Choudary, the group’s leader] was trying to make a political statement, the whole announcement was to get media coverage – he admitted that himself – and he achieved it,” Gray told the BBC. “He received lots of coverage.”

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