Muslims Against Crusades were a small, noisy British group of Islamist fuckwits. The 'were' is operative because as of today, the Home Secretary has declared them a proscribed organisation, under the auspices of the Terrorism Act. Membership or support of MAC is now a criminal offence, with a penalty of up to ten years in prison. This is, to say the least, not cool with me, but I think some background might be in order first. MAC were the successor organisation to Islam4UK, and before that al-Muhajiroun. The differences between these groups have been little more than cosmetic, the membership has overlapped significantly if not completely, and each in its turn has been proscribed and duly disbanded. Doubtless a new version will turn up again, like a bad penny.
The key thing to grasp here is that, irrespective of name, the common factor is that these groups are primarily composed of gobshites. We're not talking about terrorist organisations here; in point of fact, it's as much trolling as anything else. The main figure in all of them has been Anjem Choudary, who has essentially made a living off of being controversially extremist. For years he's been the rent-a-quote Islamist for any form of media in Britain, doubly so when they want to manufacture a quick scare story about Muslims, given that he'll be all too happy to reel off some ridiculous bullshit for them to build it on - most dubiously, the idea that once sharia law takes over Britain, Nelson's Column will be replaced by a minaret. I absolutely can't demonstrate that there exists a friendly relationship between Choudary and certain elements of the press that is predicated on this arrangement, since to do so might well be libelous.
In any case, I think it's fair to say that if Anjem Choudary is providing support to terrorists, he's doing a pretty shite job of it, due to a combination of being on BBC News' speed-dial and otherwise being, if you'll pardon the expression, all mouth and no trousers when it comes to the controversies he's manufactured. He has a pattern of announcing his group had planned something outrageous, then publicly backing down amid the outrage; once the fracas is over, it becomes apparent that they never intended to follow through on it in the first place. Most notably, this extended to a proposed protest march through (Royal) Wootton Bassett, the same town through which the funeral corteges of British soldiers killed in action returned. Incidentally, this is the same thing that led to the demonstration in London a few years back that became a cause celebre, mostly for Americans trying to push the argument that Europe is lost to sharia. A handful of idiots with signs calling for beheading the critics of Islam and telling British police to go to hell, who the rest of the nation promptly ignored en masse. So, what we're talking about here is an embarrassment, and good fodder for liars of all stripes.
So what's the controversy this time? A protest that was supposed to happen this very day - Veterans' Day in the US, but Armistice Day here. This may warrant a slight diversion to explain that Armistice Day is perhaps a slightly bigger deal here. There are two minutes of silence held at 11am, that are pretty universally observed, and poppies are worn as a symbol of remembrance - not universally, but pretty widely. Muslims Against Crusades had (allegedly) planned to protest during the silence, and burn poppies, as a protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and against memorialising British soldiers, who they tend to view as criminals who are destined to hell. This provoked the expected controversy, and now the Home Secretary has banned the group outright. There endeth the lesson. Here beginneth the rant.
Banning MAC is illiberal, ineffective, done more for PR than anything else, and a greater affront to the point of remembrance than anything they were going to do. They are, as mentioned, gobshites, but they're also a tiny group, and symbolically it's more important to me that they have the right to air their views. This is especially true, given the manner in which they've been suppressed. There's no transparency, no representation and no process of appeal. It wasn't a decision made by a judge, it was made by the Home Secretary, and she doesn't have to show her work. And the precise vagueness of that reasoning is one reason it's such a dangerous precedent, and such an illiberal power for government to have. The right to free association should be sacrosanct. It's not that we can't have limits anywhere; we don't let BNP members join the police, and for good reason - but membership of an organisation should not be criminalised on the basis of expressed political views, because that'sfucking retarded. The worst part is, we have mechanisms in place to deal with this sort of thing. If the government had wanted them to stop saying what they were saying, they could have brought a prosecution for inciting racial hatred and fought it in open court. Evidently there wasn't an appetite for that, and I think that's because they had a large chance of losing any such action. Given that being the case, the rationale for banning the group outright is even more hypocritical.
The grounds are 'glorifying terrorism', too, and I'm wondering where the line gets drawn there. We have right-wing pundits who've done just that. And more to the point, you shouldn't be imprisoned for ten years for joining a group that says Osama bin Laden was right, any more than for joining one that says Hitler was right. Presumably either would earn you some attention from the Security Service, as it should, but banning the organisation solves nothing. Christ, I saw enough British commentators lauding the killing of Osama bin Laden. Sending a military force into a foreign country, with the intention to kill a citizen of a third country, in part to send a message to his confederates - in a certain light, rather looks like terrorism, and we certainly glorified it. And it's not as if it's anything but a political decision, because if you're the kind of person who is set on committing a terrorist act, presumably you're not going to be stupid enough to join a group allegedly glorifying same.
And, and, and, it's fucking counterproductive in terms of preventing violent extremism. You're dealing with communities in which fuckwits like Anjem Choudary will get their views heard anyway. Banning them only fuels the martyr complex. They'll act like they're being persecuted, and the worst part is, they'll be halfway right. And more than that, it's the sneaking, back-door nature of it all. If this government wants to forbid burning a poppy on Armistice Day, or protesting, let them bring it forward in Parliament and present some fucking arguments, the way a democracy is supposed to work. I don't think it's too much to ask for them to have the courage of what I can loosely term their convictions, rather than hiding behind the Terrorism Act. Which, incidentally, was one thing they seem to have missed when they were railing against Labour for being authoritarian. Not that they were any better for this; May is acting in the tradition of her two immediate predecessors, who banned the group's previous incarnations. But hasn't Theresa May got better things to be doing, like resigning in disgrace? I'm certainly not going to be lectured about what's appropriate in the public sphere by a woman who says we can't deport people if they own cats.