Warning on ‘criminalising Muslims’

Government proposals to close mosques suspected of having terrorist links would criminalise entire communities, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said yesterday. He described the anti-terror measure as “the single most dangerous piece of legislation” if it were put into place.

Under Home Office proposals issued in October, members of mosque committees would face criminal charges if they failed to act against extremists using their premises. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, would then be able to close the mosque.

Sir Iqbal, who was speaking at the Global Peace and Unity event in Canning Town, east London, told the Guardian that the proposal should not be translated into law. “It’s not only divisive, counterproductive and ill-conceived, but it will cause more harm than good and will play into the hands of our enemies. We don’t have a problem with applying the law to tackle the incitement of hatred, violence or terrorism. That law is needed. But a mosque is a place of worship. It brings together a community and promotes messages of peace and tolerance.”

He also rejected the idea that there was any kind of dialogue between the government and the Muslim community. He said: “They ignored us when we told them the war in Iraq was wrong. After 7/7 the communication links were breached. We have sent our representations to the the government.”

Guardian, 5 December 2005