Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)


31 OCTOBER 2005

  Q180  Chairman: You said there is a distinction between those three?

  Mr Jafar: In substance of course. It depends on who is doing it, what the situation is and on what basis they are doing it and what options are open to them. I am not saying anything is right or wrong, but that is a problem. There is no need to have a more precise measure when you can have pre-existing measures which will get exactly the result you want and need without having to enter this area of unclarity and potentially damaging results.

  Q181  Chairman: What the Home Secretary is saying to us is that we now have this gap in the law where somebody can go on national TV and say the 7 July bombers were wonderful people, martyrs, people should go out and do exactly the same thing, it was a great thing that they did, without specifically focusing on a particular event or a specific occasion, which is where the gap in the law is now. Are you saying that it should be a crime or not?

  Mr Jafar: I am saying that it should be and that is what the conviction against Faisal was all about.

  Q182  Chairman: That was an offence of soliciting murder, was it not?

  Mr Jafar: It was, but I can see no difference between acts of terrorism and soliciting murder.

  Q183  Dr Harris: Can I pursue the same line of questioning that Lord Lester pursuing. He asked you what importance you placed on the need to have intention as a requisite for successful conviction of whatever we agree is the offence and that it should not be offence without intention because these are kind of like speech crimes and can be misinterpreted. Is the Muslim Council of Britain certain that it is being consistent in that regard when it publicly advocates a non intentional offence in regard to religious hatred also with a long prison sentence like seven years, and is this making you reconsider your approach to the Religious Hatred Bill?

  Mr Jafar: We have never had a completely difficulty line on either of these two provisions. One we favour. We think that if you can have the equivalent in race-hate speech then you can have the equivalent in religious-hate speech. With regard to glorifying acts of terrorism which could be supporting legitimate resistance movements, we think intention is vitally important because the nature of the speech that could fall foul of this law could be one in which an academic partakes, could be one in which a politician rightly engages.

  Q184  Dr Harris: Which law? Do you mean the religious hatred law, because the same could apply to that?

  Mr Jafar: No. Not really. The religious hatred law is quite specific and very narrow. It is about the kind of speech that would make and incite hatred against a particular religious community. That is different from, for instance, glorifying one religion over another or a wider concept.

  Q185  Chairman: Can I come back to the point you made about the case of Faisal, which was soliciting murder. As I recall the evidence in that case, Faisal had produced series of audio-tapes in which he specifically incited people to kill the Jews. The case I put to you was not that specific. One of the concerns I think there has been is that people make this general statements encouraging terrorism in general terms without the specificity that you see in the Faisal case?

  Mr Jafar: I thought the Faisal case is being used as an example because it is not specific. Killing not just Jews; it was Christians; it was a whole host of people who are not Muslims. It was very unspecific, I thought. It was not the crime of soliciting sitting murder against Jews; it was the crime of soliciting murder per se. I see no difference, in essence, between advocating plating a bomb in any particular country or against any particular type of civilian population as being different. That is quite specific.

  Q186  Dr Harris: You did not answer, I do not think, and forgive me if you did, Lord Lester's specific question. Do you think that someone going on television and saying that the 7/7 attacks were praiseworthy should be a criminal offence?

  Mr Jafar: Yes. It should be a criminal offence.

  Q187 Dr Harris: But you do not think that should apply necessarily to attacks on civilians in other places. Leaving side attacks on military forces, would you say it is extendable, that criminal offence of saying an attack on civilians is praiseworthy, to all situations where civilians are targeted specifically. It is a yes or no really.

  Mr Jafar: No. An attack on a civilian population does not fall within the ambit of legitimate resistance. I do not understand the question. There is legitimate resistance and there is illegitimate resistance.

  Q188  Dr Harris: Yes, and I think that is helpful, because that would mean that you would now answer Lord Lester's question by saying that attacks in Jerusalem and in Delhi are praiseworthy, not necessarily they should be emulated, but even just that they are praiseworthy, should be criminalised because they target civilians?

  Mr Jafar: They incite murder, yes. They incite murder. That is a crime in this country.

  Q189  Chairman: Can I go back to my original line of questioning after that interlude and put to you some more general questions. How do you think relations between the Muslim community and the police have developed since July?

  Mr Jafar: I think historically there have been problems with that relationship. There has been a desensitised culture within the police of religious issues while they acclimatise to racial issues. That cannot be said with regard to religious issues. People suffer religious abuse, violence promoted by anti-religious sentiments and these are not properly recorded as religious hate crimes. There has been, unfortunately, a distrust within the Muslim community of the police, and so since 7/7, immediately after 7/7, I think there was a very sharp focusing of priorities in the community and a very firm commitment to work with the police, but I think a lot of that goodwill and commitments is being dissipated and it is going back to business as usual, as figures showing disproportionality in some instances of police brutality against minority members in custody come to light.

  Q190  Chairman: What about relations generally between the Muslim community and the wider community. How have they developed since July?

  Mr Jafar: I think there was an NOP survey a month after 9/11 and eight out of 10 British people said that they do not view Muslims or Islam any less favourably now. A BBC poll two months ago showed over 60 per cent of the population in this country do not think racial profiling is a good thing. I think there is a wealth of goodness in the people of this country, of which I am proud to be a part, but I think that there is a semi-permeable membrane wherein that good large majority of this population can understand Muslims but Muslims live within a very isolated community. Their experiences are very different. Their experiences are one of social deprivation, of unemployment, of living in poverty. I think over 60 per cent of Pakistani and Bangladeshi families live below the poverty level and they live in areas where they are subjected to racial discrimination and not the niceties of life; and so I think the experiences of Muslims in this country, unfortunately, is not a good one. I think we need a lot of investments. I think the current issue and the threat of terrorism needs to have a multi-faceted approach, and I think if you confine it to one of law and order it will prove to be counter-productive, as empirically that seems to also be the case with the Irish problems, and Afro-Caribbean problems. I think there needs to be a broader approach to the community one which looks at the domestic issues of social deprivation as well as even talking about the more uncomfortable issues of foreign policy.

  Q191  Chairman: The last question in this section and following on from the criticism you made of the way the law is going, what will the consequences for community relations be between the Muslim community and the wider commune if there were to be a repeat of the 7 July attacks?

  Mr Jafar: I fear that there will be more knee-jerk legislation.

  Q192  Chairman: I am not talking about legislation; I am talking about community relations. What do you think the impact on community relations would be if there was another attack?

  Mr Jafar: There was a prediction that there would be a very big back-lash after 7/7, and the police acted commendably in relation to that and worked very closely with the community to prevent that. I think that their work and the messages they sent out immediately post 7/7 did a lot to commend that, but I fear that another incident like that may be a tipping point and may have stretched tensions too far. It is very worrying. Everything that has happened up until now in terms of community relations is fairly predictable, and if one follows that logic through, it will only be a magnification of the already problematic scenario.

  Q193  Chairman: This is the dichotomy between the Government trying to take action and the police trying to take action to prevent an attack and the consequences for community relations in that direction as opposed to the consequences for community relations if they were unable to frustrate another attack?

  Mr Jafar: I am sorry?

  Q194  Chairman: It is a dichotomy between the two, the balance, on the one hand, of the Government and the police taking action through legislation and through the things the police do, stop and search and all the rest of it, to frustrate another attack and the impact on community relations in that direction, as opposed to the impact on community relations if they fail and there is another attack?

  Mr Jafar: Yes, I do not think terrorism is something that can only be defeated by law and order. You have to approach the causes of terrorism. I think it is communities that ultimately defeat terrorism. That is a very strong message that was sent out by the police in the diversity section, and I think that is a very logical and rational approach to it and historically it has been the way terrorism really has been defeated, by offering solutions, by working with that disenfranchised community and empowering that disenfranchised community in order to be a stakeholder in the system as opposed to a marginalised community.

  Q195  Baroness Stern: I am afraid I am going to move you back to the specifics of the law, if you do not mind. In your briefing paper you are not very favourably disposed towards the new offence of acts preparatory to terrorism, which we have mentioned already. You say that the reason for it is quite unclear and that sections 57 and 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 will already criminalise many such acts. Are you opposed in principle, therefore, to the creation of the offence of acts preparatory to terrorism in clause five of the Bill and do you accept that there is a gap in the present law which makes it difficult to prosecute where there is clear evidence of an intention to commit a terrorist act but there is no evidence of the precise details of any planned terrorist act?

  Mr Jafar: Yes, in principle the MCB accepts that.

  Q196  Baroness Stern: There is a gap?

  Mr Jafar: There is a gap and there needs to be clarity in this law. One can envisage a situation where a family taking a distant relative. They could fall foul of this law, so there needs to be far greater clarity, but in principle this document was made by a number of organisations, of which the MCB was just one, and that specific part does not reflect MCB's approach to the Bill.

  Q197  Lord Judd: You have a view, I imagine, on what is proposed or what is being examined as a possibility of deportation with assurances. Could you tell us what your views are on this?

  Mr Jafar: There are some countries, unfortunately, which systematically torture their population and use torture and ill-treatment as a method of controlling their population. I think deportation to specific countries like Libya, like Syria and may be Sudan, countries where torture is systematic, not just incidentally abused by members of the security services but a systematic government policy, then I think assurances will not alleviate . . . .

  Q198  Lord Judd: You believe they should be discounted altogether, those assurances?

  Mr Jafar: It should be a case by case basis. I think there is no reason why the EU cannot compile a database of countries and their practices of torture and their practices of deportation. We have access to this information already. We know Sweden deported to Egypt and people were abused; we know in England failed asylum seekers have been returned to various countries and immediately detained and tortured. We have access to this information.

  Q199  Lord Judd: It has been said by the Home Secretary and others that to discount the reliability, for example, of the memorandum of understanding is neo-colonial or patronising. How do you respond to that?

  Mr Jafar: Most countries have signed up to international law, have signed up to the universal declaration of law. It is illegal to carry out torture, yet they consistently and systematically discard these provisions. It is not a matter of neo-colonialism, it is a matter of ingrained practice by these countries to abuse their citizens and to use torture. This is a simple factual precedent.

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