A Kashmiri alim based in Oldham, UK, is fighting government attempts to deport him to Pakistan. Shafiq ur-Rahman, who came to the UK in 1993 as an imam, is accused of being the UK leader of the Lashkar Tayyaba (LT) Islamic group fighting the Indian occupation of Kashmir. He is the first person to be accused under controversial legislation recently passed, which makes it a criminal offense to conspire to commit ‘terrorist acts’ in other countries.
The British government is arguing at a Special Immigration Appeals Commission last month that Shafiq ur-Rahman raised funds for the LT, and recruited British Muslims to go to Kashmir for military training.
The government’s case is based on records that he provided references for seven British Pakistanis to go to study in Pakistan, and that he collected money at the Oldham mosque which was sent to the the Markaz Dawa-ul-Irshad in Pakistan, which has connections with the Lashkar Tayyaba.
Shafiq ur-Rahman admitted to both these things but argued that they were being deliberately misinterpreted and misrepresented in the government.
The seven boys who went to Pakistan, he said, were simply going for religious education in madrassahs, and the money which was sent (the government evidence is based on receipts for £2,500 which they found displayed on the notice board at Oldham mosque (had been collected for qurbanis in Kashmir. The Markaz Dawa-ul-Irshad, he said is primarily a charitable organization providing schooling, health care and other charitable services.
His lawyers also told the tribunal that Shafiq ur-Rahman had been approached by MI5 (Britian’s intelligence services (to become an informer for them, but had refused. They argued that the attempt to deport him was retaliation for this refusal. Government lawyers admitted that Shafiq ur-Rahman had been approached by MI5 and had refused to work for them, but denied that this was a factor in their bringing the case.
The hearing ended on August 20, and the government told of the tribunals’ decision. However, Shafiq ur-Rahman will not be informed of it for some weeks.
The case raises a number of issues. It is the first time that British intelligence has admitted recruiting informers among British Muslims, and spying on their activities. The definition of ‘conspiring to commit terrorist acts in other countries’ is so loose that almost anyone active in the Islamic movement could be arrested under it. Foreigners can be deported; British citizens can be jailed for life. And the fact that Kashmiri mujahideen fighting to liberate their home from Indian occupation can be accused of terrorism is also worrying.
Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, believes that the case is setting a serious precedent for British Muslims to be harrassed in future. “The ground is being set for the systematic abuse of British Muslims’ rights on political grounds,” he said. “We are now seeing the real limits of freedom of speech and political action in this country.”
Muslimedia: September 1-15, 1999