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Muslim leaders oppose ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir

05-09-2005

Watford Observer:

A GROUP of local Muslim leaders have united in opposition to Government plans to ban an Islamic fundamentalist group already illegal in many countries.

Members of the Watford Muslim community signed a statement to be sent to the Prime Minister, calling for the Government to rethink its anti-terror legislation, which will see groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir outlawed.

The statement, signed by seven of the area's prominent Muslims, reads: "The proposal to ban the non-violent Islamic political party, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, is an unwise step and would set a dangerous precedent.

"Groups that simply articulate political opinions, however one may disagree with them, should be combatted through debate and not censorship."

Hizb-ut-Tahrir was formed in Jerusalem in 1953.

It has a presence in several European nations and has been active in Britain for almost two decades.

It insists it is a non-violent political organisation, although it has been outlawed in Russia and several Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries and faces restrictions in Germany.

Prime Minister Tony Blair announced last month that the group would be banned, as part of the drive to uproot Islamic extremism.

Former Conservative parliamentary candidate, Ali Miraj, said: "Hizb-ut-Tahrir are certainly a non-violent group, but their views are not helpful in the society in which we live.

"I have always felt uncomfortable with them as a group, as you are not accepted by their members unless you share their particular strand of thought. But I am not sure banning them is the answer. It might just make martyrs of them."

Some of Watford's Muslim leaders have opposed the proposed ban, saying there is nothing to suggest the group uses or condones acts of violence. Watford Borough Councillor Tariq Chohan, who is the council's representative on the National Association of Black and Ethnic Minority Councillors, said the Government's proposals will force such groups to go underground.

The Liberal Democrat councillor said: "Hizb-ut-Tahrir is not a terrorist organisation. They are just a political party."

Zubair Hussaini, a member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Watford, which organised a meeting at The Hilton on Monday, where the statement was signed, balks at widespread claims the group is anti-Jewish, and advocates violence against Jews.

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