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Ban on U.K. Radical Islamist Group al-Muhajiroun Raises Free Speech Questions
by Raffaello Pantucci
The British Home Office finally proscribed the radical Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) and a number of its successor organizations on January 14. The ban included the best-known offshoot of al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK. Described by the Home Office as a sort of "cleaning up" following the proscription in July 2006 of two predecessor organizations, al-Ghurabaa (The Strangers) and the Saved Sect, the order awakened a heated debate in the United Kingdom about whether the government was taking responsible security measures or criminalizing dissent and persecuting Muslims. U.K. Home Secretary Alan Johnston cited al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect in his defense of the proscription of al-Muhajiroun in a letter to the Guardian, which had been critical of the move:
"Prior to its proscription in 2006, those two organizations called for readers of its websites to "kill those who insult the prophet," praised the terrorist actions of Osama bin Laden, and advised that it was forbidden to visit Palestine "unless you engage in the main duty of that place, i.e. jihad." These are not views that are merely provocative – they are designed to encourage violence and legitimize violent acts in the name of religion. They are vehemently opposed by the vast majority of Muslims."
Anyone living in a democracy has to accept that freedom of speech gives people the right to say things that others find offensive. But all democracies have to set reasonable limits. Freedom of speech, cannot, by definition, be extended to those who use this right to incite hatred or violence – to curtail the rights of their fellow citizens to life, liberty and security (Guardian, January 19)."
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