The Moazzam Begg case shows how Muslims are criminalised

Letter in the Guardian

On 1 October, Moazzam Begg was released after seven months in detention because of allegations arising from his time in Syria which included charitable and investigative work (Report, 2 October). Days before a much-delayed court hearing, all charges have been dropped. Begg has been a role-model and mentor to many, young and not so young, and this new period of detention has caused great distress among those who look to him for inspiration. The manner in which he has been targeted and detained – with, ultimately, no evidence being brought against him in an open court – will confirm the view that this is a concerted campaign of intimidation, designed to scare Muslim communities away from active engagement in public life. While we celebrate his release, we remain concerned that he has spent another lengthy period in detention because of laws that are fundamentally unjust.

We write to express our extreme concern about the use of allegations of terrorism and the arrest and detention of charity workers to slur and curtail the work of Muslim charities and organisations such as Cage, Interpal, Ummah Trust and HHUGS, including through closing bank accounts, lengthy investigations into charitable status and, at the extreme, the arrest and detention of high-profile campaigners.

While we recognise and support the role of the charity commission in regulating the charity sector, it is inconceivable that the simultaneous investigation of such a number of Muslim charities at this sensitive time has arisen without political pressure. Recent history has meant that many Muslim charities are working with communities living through conflict – in Afghanistan and Palestine, in Syria and Iraq. Who can doubt that there is real human need in such locations? In common with many other charities, these organisations have sought to campaign for justice as well as raising funds for the needy. The concerted attack on such charitable activity when undertaken by Muslims threatens to further alienate a generation of young people politicised by the relentless images of suffering from Syria and Gaza.

We fear that we have drifted into a situation where the charitable giving of Muslim communities is regarded as “suspect”. We urge all people of goodwill to resist the attempt to criminalise the charity of some communities and we ask the charity commission to enable the organisations in question to resume their invaluable work.
Professor Bill Bowring Birkbeck University of London
Professor Marie Breen-Smyth Associate dean, international faculty of arts and human sciences, University of Surrey
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Zita Holbourne Co-chair BARAC
Caroline Lucas MP
Malia Bouattia NUS black students’ officer
Professor Richard Jackson National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand
Sheila Coleman Hillsborough Justice Campaign
AL Kennedy Writer
Dr Phil Shiner Solicitor
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya University of East London
Hamja Ahsan Free Talha Ahsan
Amrit Wilson South Asia Solidarity Campaign
Dr Shahrar Ali Deputy leader, Green party
Saleh Mamon Campacc
Les Levidow Campacc
Muhammad Rabbani Managing Director, Cage
Dr Charlotte Heath-Kelly Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick
Eeva Heikkilä Barrister
Dr Ruth Blakeley University of Kent
Tafazal Mohammad Muslim Youth Skills
Toby Cadman Barrister
Andy Worthington Journalist
David Young Barrister
Dr James Fitzgerald Dublin City University
Saghir Hussain Solicitor
Shakeel Begg Lewisham Islamic Centre
Paul McNab Public Interest Lawyers
Yusuf Patel
Dr Christopher Baker-Beall Nottingham Trent University
Nadya Ali University of Reading
Mitch Mitchell Defend the Right to Protest
Mohammed Kozbar Finsbury Park Mosque
Rachel Harger Bindmans
David Renton Barrister
Bethany Shiner Public Interest Lawyers
Emily McFadden Public Interest Lawyers
Klara Holdstock Public Interest Lawyers
Leisha Shiner Public Interest Lawyers
Imam Abdullah Hasan, UKIM Masjid Khadijah Imams Against Domestic Abuse
Mary Nazzal-Batayneh Barrister

See also “Moazzam Begg complains of ‘malicious’ and ‘vindictive’ detention”, Guardian, 3 October 2014