|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Salmond: The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands the nature of the problem as regards Muslim opinion. The problem for the great majority of Islamic opinion is not what happened on 11 September, which overwhelmingly Muslims condemn as an atrocity; it is much more with the action to bring to book terrorists, which involves the bombingas it seems to the Muslim populationof an entire country. That is the argument that has to be engaged.
Mr. Maude: That comes back to my first question: is this military action necessary? Most people in the House and beyond believe that there is simply no other way to bring to book those who committed and organised that act and to ensure that they cannot repeat it. That is the case that has to be made. The Foreign Secretary put it starkly. He said that there is a choice between appeasement and military action. He seemed to fight shy of saying that there is no third way, but I think that is what he was really trying to say. That is the point that must be got across.
I mildly counsel the Government against being too categoric in saying that the military action should never be extended beyond Afghanistan. Of course, we still cannot be certain that the anthrax attacks emanate from al-Qaeda, although there is inevitably a strong suspicion that that is the case. No one has suggested that al-Qaeda itself has the capability for such manufacture. It is well understood that Iraq has the capability to manufacture such evil products, so there must be a suspicion. No one suggests that one embarks on military action against a country such as Iraq on suspicion; that would be absurd. However, it would be unwise for the Government to rule out at this stage the possibility that further action may be necessary.
Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): I ask a simple question: is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the anthrax bought by the Iraqi regime in the 1980s was sold to it by companies in the United States of America?
Mr. Maude: That may well be the case. I have no knowledge of that so I cannot argue about it. However, that does not alter the fact that we know that Iraq has such a capability, which it has been developing for overtly aggressive reasons. Given the links that we know exist between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, there must be a suspicion that that is the provenance of the anthrax germs used in various attacks. It thus seems wrong at this stage, without being intemperate or precipitate, to exclude as a matter of dogma the possibility that military action could go beyond Afghanistan.
I close with a reflection on the domestic effects. Yesterday, we heard statements from two senior Ministers who made proposals for urgent legislative action. Much of what was said was persuasive. The case being made for particular new provisions is well understood and, on the face of things, it is hard to argue with it. However, Ministers should be aware that Whitehall is riddled with desks whose drawers contain numerous schemes for more regulation, more intervention and more interference with people's lives, which will tend always to alter that crucial balance in the relationship between the citizen and the state.
We should be aware that those schemesperfectly properly thought up and developedare always awaiting a political opportunity for their deployment. We should be aware of the "something must be done" syndrome, which is too often operative in politics. The Government of whom I was a member were as guilty of that as any. Something comes up, we want to show that we are doing something and new legislation and regulation seem an easy answer. However, that is rarely the answer, so I counsel the Government to exercise great caution in the schemes for new regulation and new intervention that they propose, and I urge the House to scrutinise any legislation with very great care.
Mr. Dalyell: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should like you to draw to the Speaker's attention the fact that no Minister from the Ministry of Defence is present, even though a Minister from that Department will be responsible for making the winding-up speech. Irrespective of whether hon. Members agree or disagree with the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), he has just made a thoughtful speech, and it should at least be reflected on by the Minister who will make the winding-up speech. I ask you to raise this issue with Mr. Speaker, because the House of Commons is in danger of talking to thin air. Frankly, the Secretary of State for Defence made the winding-up speech in last Monday's debate, and to anyone who heard the speech, as I did, or read the report of it, it was only too clear that the Government were not listening to what had been said in the House. Not only is that bad manners, but it is a pity, as there is a great deal more knowledge and sense among those on the Back Benches than among those on the Front Benches.
The Minister for Europe (Peter Hain): I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for that invitation. I will certainly pass on my hon. Friend's comments. I am making a note of the points that are made. Indeed, I have described the speech made by the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) as thoughtful in my notesprecisely the point that my hon. Friend makes.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): I wish to address the concerns that many of my constituents, not least those from the Muslim community, have raised with me about the activities of the fundamentalist extremists in London who have sinister international links and provide support, aid and comfort to the Taliban and bin Laden. I first raised those concerns in parliamentary questions in January and May last year, and I am pleased that some action at least has been taken in respect of several of those involved, but others remain at large.
I shall begin with Sakina Security Services, which was raided a couple of weeks ago. Sakina is an Islamist security organisation with extremely close links to al-Muhajiroun and Supporters of Sharia. Sakina sends people overseas for jihad training with live arms and ammunition. It is hostile to the British Government, police and security services, and regularly issues threats to British interests in the United Kingdom and overseas. It is also particularly anti-semitic and appears to have singled out the Jewish community as its direct adversary.
Sakina also organises training in many different sites in the United Kingdom. However, its activities are not limited to that. A bulletin board posted on its website a year ago today claimed that Sakina operatives were in
The al-Muhajiroun organisation is inextricably linked with Sakina. It was founded by Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed who was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 1993. It is also linked to Supporters of Sharia, founded by Abu Hamza who was given UK nationality in 1986. Al-Muhajiroun is dedicated to establishing a Muslim state in Britain. Bakri is openly contemptuous of Britain and the very idea of democracy. He told the Daily Mail on 17 September,
In an interview with the Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Aswat, Bakri Mohammed boasted that al-Muhajiroun sent Muslim youths on jihad training courses in Virginia, Michigan and the Missouri desert where they learned various techniques for guerrilla warfare, for making explosives and using shoulder-mounted missiles. He stated that between 300 and 400 people were sent on such courses each year, travelling as Europeans on British, French and German passports so that they did not need entry visas for the United States although most were of Asian or Arab origin. The training was organised by a British security firm that is managed by a Muhajiroun member. I believe that to be Sakina Security Services and the Muhajiroun member to be Mohammed Jameel.
Abu Yaya is another operative of Sakina. On 26 June 2000 he gave an interview on the "Today" programme on Radio 4 in which he explained that he had just returned from Kashmir having spent four months on military training where he learned everything necessary, including making bombs, using artillery and a Kalashnikov and how to mount an ambush. He cropped up after 11 September as a spokesperson for al-Muhajiroun. On 24 September he said that he had
Abu Hamza closed Al-Ansar in 1997 and in its place launched the Supporters of Sharia, another serious organisation. In 1999, eight British Muslims were convicted in Yemen of plotting terrorist attacks. The Yemenis accused Abu Hamza of organising the plot in conjunction with Islamic terrorists in Yemen. Abu Hamza also often acts as a mouthpiece for Yemen's main Islamic terrorist organisation, the Aden Abyan Islamic Army. When it kidnapped a group of tourists in 1998 its leader decided to announce the news first to Abu Hamza, whom he telephoned.
Recent reports reveal that Ahmed Beghal was a regular attender at the Finsbury Park mosque. He is the leader of a terrorist cell of Takfir wal-Hijra which planned terrorist attacks in Europe, including a suicide bombing of the US embassy in Paris. Beghal lived in London during the late 1990s and was part of a clique of Takfir wal-Hijra supporters, who are still active at the mosque. In July this year he was arrested in Dubai.
Abu Hamza has used his position at the mosque to promote a message of violent and radical extremism. In two speeches at mosques in Burnley, which were broadcast in the "Dispatches" programme on Channel 4, he said:
In October 2000 Supporters of Sharia, al-Muhajiroun and the Islamic Observation Centre, led by the Egyptian terrorist Yasser al-Sirri, held a demonstration outside the Egyptian embassy. Abu Hamza implored his supporters to donate money
Yasser al-Sirri is wanted by Egypt because of a car bomb that killed a 12-year-old girl and injured scores of her classmates eight years ago. It was recently revealed that he is implicated in the recent suicide bomb murder of the Afghan opposition leader by helping two assassins posing as journalists to obtain Afghan visas. I believe that he is still at large.
Abu Qatada is another person about whom we need to be extremely concerned. The US Treasury has recently named him as one of those whose assets have been frozen there, yet he remains at large in the UK. Abu Qatada, whose full name is Omar Mahmood Abu Omar, is a Palestinian-Jordanian who is closely associated with Jaish Mohammed, a proscribed organisation. In September 2000, he was convicted in his absence in Jordan for the millennium bomb plot. He is a close associate of Omar Bakri Mohammed and Abu Hamza al-Masri, and ran what was known as the Baker street mosque in Marylebone from a youth club, the Four Feathers club, which I believe recently moved to another address in the Harrow Road. One attendee of the youth club was shot dead at an Islamic school in Yemen.
Qatada has built a reputation for spreading extremism and division in the Muslim community in this country. In Brighton, he led a group of radicals who unseated the moderate imam of the mosque there. He has been to both Afghanistan and Bosnia, and been highly involved in many activities. Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected 20th hijacker, regularly attended the Baker street mosque run by Abu Qatada, who has twice been convicted for his role in terrorist attacks in Jordan.
Surely it is time to take action against such extremists. The Crown Prosecution Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions have not adopted as aggressive an approach as they should have in dealing with these individuals. However, our laws must not permit companies, organisations or individuals to be used as fronts for terrorist fundraising or money laundering. We cannot permit the continuing organisation of package tours for trainee terrorists, on which they learn to kill with modern weapons and tactics. We must prevent the sending of youngsters to every troublespot around the world, where their lives are at risk or they threaten the lives of others, including British service personnel.
I am pleased that our race hate laws are to be strengthened to include religion, but in protecting our Muslim communities, that review must also deal with the incitement to violence and conspiracies of the extremists. There can be little doubt about what al-Muhajiroun, Supporters of Sharia, Bakri Mohammed, Abu Hamza and the rest are up to. They are bin Laden's fellow travellers. We must proscribe their organisations under the terrorism legislation.
As we review our asylum and immigration law, we must not just speed up extradition but respond to those who seek extradition of people such as Abu Qatada. The Home Secretary's powers to revoke indefinite leave to remain must be clarified and strengthened. It should be extended to the revocation of recently granted UK citizenship, so that those who abuse our democratic system and actively seek to destroy the society that protects them from the regimes that they would themselves impose on others can be removed if it is conducive to the public good and their own security to do so. We cannot allow the human rights of everyone else to be threatened any longer by such extremists.