Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill: An Open Letter to our MPs

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill: An Open Letter to our MPs

The Coalition government’s fast-tracked Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill is now at report stage in the Commons and will soon proceed to its third reading. Rightly, human rights implications have been raised from all sides of the House, such as the lack of clarity in defining ‘reasonable suspicion’ when considering the seizure of travel documents or the serious matter of revoking the passport of a British citizen while overseas.

However some key aspects have not been sufficiently probed, and we call on you to be vigilant to its further implications: making the Home Office/ACPO Channel referral programme statutory, giving officials the discretion to assess whether an individual is ‘vulnerable to be drawn to terrorism’; placing statutory terrorism prevention duties on university lecturers and school teachers and a variety of public authorities including NHS Trusts; and, from recent reports, it appears that there will be an onus on nurseries and early years childcare providers to be alert to extremist inclinations! What impact analysis has there been in the education sector, where teachers seek to build a trusted environment in which to motivate and inspire and cultivate critical thinking?

CT legislation thus far has given latitude for subjective application and difficult-to-challenge powers to officialdom. The climate of oversight and control is widening; our financial institutions, for example, now have compliance officers with past careers in the police and even US Homeland Security. Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester, recently said that the battle against extremism could lead to a drift towards a police state in which officers are turned into ‘thought police’.  The British Muslim community is bearing the brunt of this securitisation.

During the Trojan Horse controversy, which was about state schools with predominantly Muslim children, too often OFSTED inspectors’ reports contained judgemental phrases such as ‘governance is not good enough’ or ‘[governors] have little understanding of the quality of teaching’. The inspectors conflated religious and social conservatism as extremism. Muslim charities too have been disproportionately subject to investigation on the basis of hear-say, with bank accounts frozen, only to be cleared but at a cost to their reputation.

Many of us involved in doorstep work promoting voter registration in good time for the General Election are sensing alienation and anxiety. We are asked how the Chair of the Charity Commission William Shawcross can be trusted as a regulator when he was formerly associated with neo-con networks that demonise Muslims? We are asked how the former head of the Met’s anti-terrorist branch is both a board member of the Charity Commission and also called on to investigate Birmingham schools? The Bill will weaken trust within communities. Despotic regimes overseas with whom we have intelligence-sharing agreements will be emboldened to prompt ‘investigations’ more to do with silencing political opposition than tackling criminality. Note the pressure already placed by the UAE on Islamic Relief Worldwide, The Cordoba Foundation and the Muslim Association of Britain – all respected members of British civil society.

Please challenge this Bill’s schedules that draw public authorities further into a CT role.  The hopes of many, Muslim and non-Muslims, in a fair Britain depend on you. We do not wish to see our values of transparency and democracy contaminated – not in this eighth centenary year of the Magna Carta!

From concerned British citizens

6th January 2015

UAE ‘Terrorist Organisation’ list is farcical

UAE ‘Terrorist Organisation’ list is farcical

THE CORDOBA FOUNDATION

 

17 November, 2014

 

UAE ‘Terrorist Organisation’ list is farcical

 

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF), following the implementation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Law No. 7 of 2014, ratified by the UAE Cabinet in which 83 organisations, groups and associations from around the world, are designated as terrorist, rejects such an unprecedented and irresponsible move and condemns the motives behind such a draconian measure.

 

TCF is a prominent UK based Think Tank, with an established and significant track record in conflict resolution, hostage negotiation, and the promotion of dialogue over the last decade.  TCF rejects wholeheartedly any such libellous accusations, and expresses its profound shock that there are those that would seek to designate it as such.

 

To list TCF along the likes of Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIL, is not only a cause for libel but a dangerous precedent given that groups which espouse extreme violence as a means to realise political goals are listed alongside those who reject such methods as a point of principle in their unshakable values.

 

All countries have a responsibility to fight terrorism and take the appropriate preventative and proper legal measures to address this threat; however, using legislation to target legitimate organisations is counter-productive.

 

It is no coincidence that groups that have legitimate, acceptable aims, have been placed on to the ‘terrorist’ list, given that all of these groups have criticised the UAE for their lack of observation of human rights, and the violent oppression of their own citizens.

 

It is evident that the UAE have become agitated given the barrage of international opposition to oppression, anti-reform, and anti-democratic policies within its own borders and beyond, namely Egypt, Libya, and Yemen.

 

The inclusion of TCF amongst other legitimate groups in such a list is an absurd step that does not take into account its clear ramifications, namely tarnishing the image of a respectable and successful organisation. To group TCF and others in the same list as extremist organisations such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIL, is shameful, and cannot be justified, it is simply another example of a despotic regime seeking to silence any form of dissent.

 

TCF considers the moves taken by the UAE extremely seriously and will immediately take steps to ensure that its reputation is restored and compensation sought for the damage caused through all appropriate means.

 

TCF calls upon the UK Government to shoulder its responsibility and stand side-by-side with the legitimate and reputable British organisations operating within the UK, such as TCF, against the libellous actions of an autocratic regime that has a clear agenda to oppress, violate human rights, and stifle democracy and fundamental freedoms.

 

[End]

 

Notes to editors:

 

1. The Cordoba Foundation is an independent strategic think tank aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and positive coexistence, through a range of activities including research and publications, training and capacity building, policy briefings and dialogues. The Foundation takes its name from the city of Cordoba. The European metropolis was once a symbol of human excellence and intellectual ingenuity, where cultures, civilizations and ideas thrived. Embodying this spirit, TCF today facilitates the meeting of minds, to advance understanding and respect for one another.

2. Media and interview requests, contact: info@thecordobafoundation.com | 020 8991 3372 | http://thecordobafoundation.com

ENORB Meeting – 12th of November

ENORB Meeting – 12th of November

Advance notice of a special ENORB UK event for Inter Faith Week 2014

WHEN?           Wednesday 12 November 10am – 12 noon

WHO?             Andrew Copson, CEO of the British Humanist Association*

WHAT?           Humanism, Laïcité, Atheism, Secularism across Europe: how do we work together across religious & belief traditions for fair treatment for all?

WHERE?         Europe House, Smith Square, SW1P 3EU

Moazzam Begg exonerated: once again failed anti-terror policies continue to punish innocent citizens

Moazzam Begg exonerated: once again failed anti-terror policies continue to punish innocent citizens

he Cordoba Foundation

PRESS RELEASE

1st of October, 2014

MOAZZAM BEGG EXONERATED

 

ONCE AGAIN FAILED ANTI-TERROR POLICIES CONTINUE TO PUNISH INNOCENT CITIZENS

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) welcomes the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to drop all charges of terrorism-related offences against Moazzam Begg. The release from prison today of Begg, once an innocent detainee of Guantanamo Bay, an author and a prominent British human rights campaigner, comes as a great relief to his family and friends, as well as the vast community who knew him and never believed for a second that he might have been guilty. Begg was arrested in the West Midlands, on the 25th of February 2014 on suspicion of “attending a terrorist training camp” and “facilitating terrorism overseas”.

TCF warned at the time that Begg’s arrest was politically-motivated and was the culmination of a long campaign of harassment from the UK authorities, including being prevented from attending events he was invited to abroad and the confiscation of his passport on numerous occasions.

TCF has a long-standing working relationship with Begg and the human rights and advocacy group CAGE. Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation said:

“Moazzam is a close aide to The Cordoba Foundation; we have been collaborating on several projects over many years specifically addressing issues relating to human rights violations perpetrated under the pretext of the so-called War on Terror, the criminalisation of the Muslim community, but more importantly, fighting for the rights of those illegally detained. Moazzam is a leading light in this field and is a well-respected personality in not only the British Muslim community but across British society, as the huge numbers of messages of congratulations and celebration show. Indeed, many of those messages were received from all corners of the world”.

Altikriti further commented that “it seems absurd that someone of Moazzam’s stature was accused of supporting terrorism, despite being a strong voice against extremism, and someone who has always encouraged Muslims and the wider community to become engaged with the local and national legal and political processes. I find it strange how someone viewed as an antidote to extremism and radicalisation, became himself, a victim of the ‘War on Terror…’”.

TCF believes that Begg’s unjustifiable incarceration, for the second time in his life-time, is representative of the fruits of the failed Prevent programme and anti-terror legislations which must be abandoned, for driving communities apart and creating a culture of fear rather than one of safety and security. This also highlights the dangers of home secretary Theresa May’s call this week for the abandoning of the Human Rights Act.

[Ends]

Notes to editors:

1. The Cordoba Foundation is an independent strategic think tank aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue and positive coexistence, through a range of activities including research and publications, training and capacity building, policy briefings and dialogues. The Foundation takes its name from the city of Cordoba. The European metropolis was once a symbol of human excellence and intellectual ingenuity, where cultures, civilizations and ideas thrived. Embodying this spirit, TCF today facilitates the meeting of minds, to advance understanding and respect for one another.

2. Media and interview requests, contact: info@thecordobafoundation.com | 020 8991 3372 | http://thecordobafoundation.com

London Peace Conference Event Report

London Peace Conference Event Report

THE CORDOBA FOUNDATION, LONDON PEACE NETWORK AND FAITH-BASED REGENERATION NETWORK

 

MEDIA RELEASE AND EVENT REPORT

16 September, 2014

 

London Peace Conference – no topics off limits

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF), London Peace Network (LPN) and the Faith-based Regeneration Network (FbRN) convened a peace conference yesterday at the historic St. Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation, in London.

 

Commemorating the United Nations International Day of Peace, this timely conference was supported by a number of prominent organisations representing a broad spectrum of religious, specialist and community organisations, including the Christian Muslim Forum, Muslim Council of Britain, Religions for Peace, Al-Khoei Foundation, The Quakers, Peace One Day, and the UNA Westminster.

 

From the crises in the Middle East, to reducing conflict in our homes and streets, the conference engaged scholars, experts, faith and community leaders to discuss the limits and challenges of grassroots peace endeavours, as well as learning peace-building skills, and exploring conceptual frameworks governing peace and dialogue.

 

The conference was jointly opened by Dr Anas Altikriti, Chief Execof The Cordoba Foundation and Catriona Robertson, Convener of the London Peace Network. Lord Michael Bates, who was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office in August 2014 and currently on his Walk for Peace to Berlin, sent a special message,

 

“It is all too easy to look around the world and get depressed about the cause of peace, but it is said it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness: that is exactly what the London Peace Network is seeking to do and I applaud them for it and would encourage all those who care about peace to join in.”

 

The morning keynote speeches were delivered by Imam Shafiur-Rahman, Director of Jibreel Institute in London, who talked about developing a framework for peace-building. Jo Berry, founder of Building Bridges for Peace, relayed her personal trauma and awakening following the killing of her father in an IRA bomb by Pat Magee. Her preparedness to try to understand Magee opened a path to empathy that continues to develop today, and this unusual relationship has been told in the BBC documentary “Facing the Enemy”, and featured in the film “Beyond Right and Wrong”, and inspired “The Bomb”, a play by Kevin Dyer.

 

Other notable contributions came from Chani Smith, Secretary, Friends of the Bereaved Families Forum; Rt Hon Clare Short, Former Secretary of State; Rabbi Natan Levy, Board of Deputies of British Jews; Revd Nadim Nassar, Director of the Awareness Foundation; Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain;Keith Kahn-Harris, Sociologist and Author; Aliya Azam, Al Khoei Foundation; Jehangir Sarosh OBE, Religions for Peace UK; Rosalind Parker, Kings College London; and Julian Bond, Christian Muslim Forum. The closing address was delivered by Marigold Bentley, Assistant General Secretary, Quaker Peace & Social Witness.

 

The conference combined a mixture of skills-based workshops, thematic panel discussions, films (MUJU Crew), a performance by school students from the Khalsa Secondary Academy, Stoke Poges, and interactive sessions moderated by Steve Miller, Faith-based Regeneration Network and Angharad Thain, St Ethelburga’s.

 

The organisers proposed a draft statement of practical intent and commitment to peace-building in the 21st century, which stated the following,

 

“We recognise that peace is not just an absence of conflict but is about building a world where all can flourish without fear.

 

We know that fear and violence prosper in a world of ignorance and mistrust where we demonise the ‘other’ and mistakenly elevate ourselves as superior; whether that is across nations and peoples, in our streets and communities, or even in our own homes.

 

Disputes exist, injustice exists, exploitation exists – we know that these things are real in the world and words alone cannot solve these problems.

 

But, coming together today, we dedicate ourselves to find peaceful ways to pursue justice, to stand up and be active, and to use our joint energies and influence for creative and not destructive outcomes”.

 

Bringing the conference to a formal close, Abdullah Faliq, Head of Research at The Cordoba Foundation thanked all for making the conference a success and highlighted its significance: “unlike other conferences that tend to avoid serious and important issues because of political correctness, fear and intimidation, in this conference no issues are off limits. However this conference is only the start, its success depends on how it is followed up”.

 

[Ends]

Notes to editors:

1. Pictures from the conference available here: (Click to access album).

 

2. Conference pack, including full programme, speakers profiles, background to organisers available here: (Click to download).

 

3. Media and interview requests, contact:

The Cordoba Foundation: info@thecordobafoundation.com | 020 8991 3372 | http://thecordobafoundation.com

Faith-based Regeneration Network: info@fbrn.org.uk | 020 7840 0138 | http://www.fbrn.org.uk/

London Peace Network: convener@lbfn.org | http://londonpeacenetwork.org/| 07903 682 142

4. Flights for Peace

Flights for Peace

Flights for Peace

‘Celebrate the United Nations International Day of Peace in a unique way, meeting other people who live in London it is likely you have never met. Find out what they think; ask questions you’ve always wanted to ask.’

 

21 September 2014, 2pm-4pm.
North Greenwich Emirates Air Line station.

 

Response to HSBC closure of The Cordoba Foundation bank account

Response to HSBC closure of The Cordoba Foundation bank account

On 21, 22, and 24 July 2014, a number of letters were sent by HSBC Bank UK advising that the business accounts of The Cordoba Foundation and the personal accounts of Mr. Anas Altikriti and members of his family, including two minor children, were being closed without further consultation. A period of two months notice was given in which alternative arrangements were to be made with another bank, as HSBC Bank UK was no longer prepared to offer banking services.

 

In a number of identical letters received, HSBC Bank UK stated that the it had “recently conducted a review of its portfolio of customers and has concluded that provision of banking services to The Cordoba Foundation UK Ltd. now falls outside of our risk appetite”.

 

It is with the utmost concern that HSBC Bank UK has taken such an unprecedented course of action. It is quite clear that no prior concerns with the account holders had been identified or raised and it remains unclear as to what precisely has prompted the bank to take this wholly unjustified course of action.

 

Of particular concern, is the fact that in ordering the closure of the accounts, it will create a ‘black mark’ against those concerned and alternative banking services may be difficult, if not impossible to now source. This in itself has the potential to cause significant damage to reputation.

 

HSBC Bank UK has refused thus far to provide any reasons whatsoever to justify their decision, simply stating “we have taken the decision that we no longer wish to provide you with banking facilities and are closing your account.”  All attempts to contact the Bank through the helpline number provided on the letter have failed. Those persons affected have been confronted with a wall of silence.

 

It is recognised that the right to withhold banking facilities lies with the institution in question, nevertheless, it is wholly inappropriate that a bank can take such a decision that can have such far reaching consequences, without providing any form of justification or redress.

 

It is also of significance that the Bank has also made a decision to close accounts associated with a number of other Islamic groups or individuals. Without any real justification being disclosed, there is a clear inference that the Bank is making their decisions on wholly discriminatory grounds, which the Bank recognises is illegal.

 

HSBC Bank UK is hereby asked to:

 

1. Provide legitimate reasons for why they have taken the decision to close the accounts of The Cordoba Foundation, Mr. Anas Altikriti;

 

2. Issue a full and unequivocal apology for any potential damage to reputation;

 

3. Enter immediate dialogue with Mr. Altikriti and/or his representatives to discuss a solution to the perceived problem(s).

[Ends]

 

Notes to editors:

 

For formal enquiries and further information, please contact:

 

1.Toby Cadman

Barrister-at-law

9 Bedford Row International

(http://www.9bri.com)

 

2. The Cordoba Foundation

Westgate House

Level 7

Westgate Road

Ealing

London W5 1YY

UK

 

Tel. +44 (0)20 8991 3372

Fax. +44 (0)20 8991 3373

www.thecordobafoundation.com

Srebrenica Memorial Speech by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia

Srebrenica Memorial Speech by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia

As thousands converge in Potocari today for the funeral prayers of over 400 bodies and the 19th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, we are once again reminded of the lengths that man could potentially go to when immersed in a state of fear, hatred and division.

The Memorial Day puts to rest any naivety that the lessons of the past have not only been learned, but well and truly headed. Not only are human beings chronically capable of committing the most repugnant of acts against fellow human beings, regardless of the advancement of time, the catalysts for these crimes are invariably similar whatever the different and unique circumstances of each.

The Cordoba Foundation has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the threat man poses against his fellow man, should particular conditions become established on the ground. Whether Srebrenica, Auswitz, Rwanda, Gaza, Kashmir, Myanmar or Somalia, and whether in the last century, this or the one coming, injustice establishes fear which breads suspicion and ultimately hatred. From there, the move on to violence is neither a difficult nor inconceivable step to undertake. Our objective is to work in common collaboration to remove the very initial elements on that tragic path, and to counter the root causes for clashes based on false and misguided understanding and implementation of the concepts of ‘self’ and ‘the other’.

The Srebrenica Memorial Day provides a timely reminder to us all of the challenges that can only be met in a sense of togetherness and community.

 

The Cordoba Foundation and Islamic Forum of Europe are issuing this special sermon from the Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovinia on this occasion

 

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