More than 300 Muslims attended a gathering on Thursday organised by a group which the Government wants banned.
The jam-packed meeting was organised by local members of Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir in direct response to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s proposals – announced on August 5 – to review security measures in light of last month’s terrorist attacks.
It was the first Hizb ut-Tahrir meeting since Tony Blair’s announcement. Dozens more meetings are due to take place up and down the country over the next few weeks.
The Hizb ut-Tahrir group has publicly condemned the London bombings of 7/7 and has a policy of non-violence.
All sorts of people were present at the gathering, which took place at the Cygnet Hotel in Dunstable Road, Luton, including Mayor Councillor Haji Abid.
Women and children as well as people from nearby towns including Watford, Hemel Hempsted, Bletchley and Milton Keynes also attended the meeting.
Several people made speeches including businessmen, councillors, solicitors and doctors.
When Luton businessman Meherban Khan was given the chance to speak he said: “I have been present at several Hizb ut-Tahrir meetings and, while I am not a member, I respect its beliefs. But I have to say I think Tony Blair is the Hitler of the 21st century.”
That remark brought cheers – not for the first time at the gathering – from the scores of people present.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Haji Abid added: “Following the recent statements coming from Tony Blair, I think what he is proposing is alarming.
“Mr Blair needs to have a balanced approach to tightening security measures, but he is failing. Everyone needs to be accountable for what we say and do, and Mr Blair needs to be accountable for the things he is saying. Muslims have the right to participate in all national processes and I’m very concerned about the Government pressing through legislation without proper scrutiny.”
Luton South Labour MP Margaret Moran, who says she was not invited to attend the meeting, told this newspaper:
“The Hizb ut-Tahrir are very well known for their aggressive behaviour and I think they should be banned. They don’t believe in our democracy and we have allowed them to go unchecked for too long. They prey on vulnerable young men and do nothing to encourage them to become integrated in society in Luton.”
Bedfordshire Police spokeswoman Julie Cox said: “Everyone is entitled to freedom of speech. It was their own private meeting and we decided not to be present.”
Luton Borough Council spokeswoman Fiona Mair said: “This is a political issue, so we suggest you speak direct to the mayor.”