Orders of the Day — Terrorism Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 26th October 2005.

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Photo of John Denham John Denham Chair, Home Affairs Committee 4:00 pm, 26th October 2005

I certainly do not accept Hamas's strategy of terrorism, or its vision of the destruction of Israel. However, we make a mistake if we believe that organisations such as Hamas are indistinguishable from organisations such as al-Qaeda. One of the problems with the Bill is that it condemns such organisations and support for them in precisely the same terms as those in which it condemns support for the London bombings or 11 September. It allows for no distinction. It bans Hizb ut-Tahrir. It is designed to do that, as we know from the Prime Minister. The language of that organisation is undoubtedly extreme, and its aim of establishing a Muslim theocracy is equally extreme—and is extreme in the eyes of most Muslims to whom I have ever spoken. I have not, however, seen evidence that it is actively involved in the promotion of terrorism.

Clause 17 includes international action. There is a set of Chechens—not the murderers of Beslan, but others—whom the Russians regard as terrorists, but to whom this country has traditionally given asylum. Once the Act is operational, the Government will be under pressure to use it against them.

Far from sharpening our attack on al-Qaeda and the extreme of international terrorism—a terrorism that allows no possibility of compromise or engagement—the Bill blurs the differences. It allows the extremists, in arguments that will take place in communities, in gyms and possibly in mosques—but probably not in mosques at all—to argue that democracy is a dead end. They will say that it is not even possible to support people whom they regard as their brothers, and who are fighting occupation and winning elections, without being silenced. They will say that it is not possible to advocate a Muslim state without being silenced, and that it is not possible to be part of a resistance movement anywhere in the world without being silenced. They will say that the terrorist route is the only way. That is the argument that will be advanced in streets and communities up and down the country, and what we must ask ourselves is whether the phrasing of clause 1 will help us to win the argument for democracy and engagement.