Friday, 24 September 2004

CofE on Terrorism

The Church of England has issued a statement Terrorism and Community Relations which is a submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee from the Mission and Public Affairs Division of the Church of England. The press release says:

The threat of terrorism faces governments with the challenge of maintaining security without undermining human rights but some current counter-terrorist measures threaten to aggravate tensions between Muslims and other groups in British society, the Church of England has warned in a submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee enquiry into the effects of counter-terrorism legislation on community relations.

This is partly due to legislation that creates a separate system, criticised by all-party groups, for indefinite detention of terrorist suspects who are not British nationals, says the submission from the Church of England’s Mission and Public Affairs Council. It also points to other measures creating a sense of insecurity and stigmatisation among Muslims. Police, says the submission, should use powers of arrest and search even-handedly and media reporting should reflect more representative and responsible views from within Muslim communities.

The full text of the statement is available.

This has been reported:

Stephen Bates in the Guardian Anti-terror measures ‘alienate Muslims’

Bill Bowder in the Church Times C of E warning on terror law

The CT article has a useful link to the press release from the Institute of Race Relations concerning its recently published study which documents the facts in support of this (full IRR report available as a pdf file here).

Church of England Newspaper
Anti-terror laws harm Muslims, says Church
and also has a highly supportive editorial (text of this saved for posterity, below the fold as usual)

Church of England Newspaper
Editorial: The anti-terror laws

This week the nation has shared the indescribable trauma of the Bigley family as they await news of British hostage Kenneth Bigley. The rise in hostage-taking in Iraq is just one example of the unintended consequences of the high anxiety about terrorism post-9/11 and following the war in Iraq, lead us very often to seek someone to blame. For some it will be political leaders like Blair and Bush, for others, it is the policies of Israel while many more lay the blame entirely at the door of innocent Muslim communities.

Yet if we argue that terrorists are responsible for their actions we cannot then take steps to assign blame to the entire communities from which they come. Just as Muslims are primarily the victims of Islamist terrorism, so Muslims are indirectly the ‘victims’ of anti-terror laws which affect them disportionately. So argues the Church of England’s submission to the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

The submission recognises the fine balance of maintaining security without undermining human rights, but argues that current counter-terrorists measures are aggravating tensions between Muslims and other groups in British society. It must however be pointed out that in any particular stop-and-search operations to identify terrorists those who are thought to be Muslim because of their ethnic identity are bound to be disproportionately affected.

The Church of England rightly has conducted a listening exercise for the past two years through the offices of Lambeth Palace. The anxieties of the Muslim community have been heard clearly in this exercise about the heavy-handed effects of the counter terrorist measures especially on non-British nationals, and about everyday problems faced such as stop-and-search policies as well as Islamophobia in British society. In any such listening exercise however, contradictory viewpoints from the communities involved will cancel each other out, and not all fears and concerns will be justified or well-founded.

In fact, since the terror attacks on 9/11 2001 the British public are probably better informed about Islam than ever before. They are more likely to know that not all Muslims are terrorists, despite the fact that terror groups claim to be mainstream in the interpretation of Islamic theology. And in fact, a great deal of sympathy for Muslim communities has followed the attacks, including many supportive measures undertaken by church and other community groups. Furthermore, Muslim leaders are increasingly demonstrating a renewed sense of responsibility in leading the communities to help police in identifying the terrorists who embed themselves in Muslim communities and those who recruit for terrorist groups. The Muslim community is signalling that it is moving away from the role of victim and recovering a confidence that arises from being an important part of British society.

The Church of England’s submission is a welcome support for another faith community in British life, but is in danger of portraying the diverse Muslim communities in Britain as helpless and in need of constant defence. In fact, robust as never before, Muslims in Britain are beginning to rise to the challenge of dealing with the specific problems of terror associated with extreme Islamist beliefs in concert with other faith groups and with the authorities.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 24 September 2004 at 7:52 AM GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England