Islamic Human Rights Commission cuts ties with ‘Orwellian’ British govt

Walthamstow, east London with the Masjid-E-Umer mosque behind (Reuters / Toby Melville)
One of the UK’s biggest Islamic organizations has refused to participate in future government talks on anti-terror legislation, claiming their contributions to policy are being overlooked.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which describes itself as an “independent, non-profit campaign, research and advocacy organization,” said the British government has been “uncompromising” in its efforts to “legislate away fundamental freedoms in order to tackle terrorism over the last 18 years.”

In a statement released late Tuesday, an IHRC spokesperson said: “Such input perversely allows the government to claim that it has carefully considered the views of civil society organizations, when in fact the final policies were always a foregone conclusion.”

The statement comes at a time when a number of British Islamic organizations feel marginalized by the government, and in some cases have been accused of being linked to terrorist activities overseas.

In November, the Claystone think tank said “more than a quarter” of British charities under investigation by the charity commission were working on Muslim-related issues, and criticized the government for “excessive” surveillance of Islamic charitable groups.

Analysis conducted by the think tank found that out of 76 charities currently being investigated, 20 were led by Muslims, including the civil liberties organization CAGE.

In December, the Demos think tank also said British charities working in conflict zones in the Middle East were being cut off from “millions” of pounds in funding due to counter-terrorism legislation, with some having their private bank accounts closed down completely due to “credit risk.”

Tom Keatingue, a director at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and author of the report, said that the lack of financial access meant that charities were unable to carry out some medical projects overseas, or deliver adequate resources to vulnerable refugees.

The IHRC also hit out at the government’s Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, which is currently being debated in parliament, which the organization called “Orwellian.”

William Shawcross (AFP Photo / Hong Kong Trade Development Council)

“The bill will introduce a raft of new measures to deal with terrorism and extremism in the UK. It is IHRC’s view that the current proposals are far and away the most Orwellian to date; they will erode civil liberties and turn the UK into a police state.

“Alongside the raft of new laws, we have also seen the government introduce and broaden its PREVENT program, which is aimed at both gathering intelligence on the Muslim community using public sector workers such as teachers and doctors and trying to socially engineer a more compliant Muslim community by legally defining the range of beliefs/views its members are allowed to hold.”

IHRC spokesperson Arzu Merali claimed the government’s ramping up of anti-terror measures were marginalizing British Muslims, and risked turning the UK into a “police state.”

“The anti-terrorism laws have served only to create a sub-par legal regime without due process that targets Muslims. It also demonizes Muslims further, causing backlash and discrimination. Off the back of these processes, we find the UK turning into a police state with little protest. We must stop this slide into authoritarianism,” she said.

Last month, two well-known British Muslim charities, the Muslim Charities Forum and the Birmingham based Islamic Help lost their government grants after being accused by the Department for Communities and Local Government of being linked to terrorist groups.

Both organizations say they were “surprised, dismayed and angered” by DCLG’s decision, which they insisted were based on “unfounded allegations.”