Sunday, 10 June 2007

‘OURAIM Magazine on Hamas & Hizbullah’ now illegal in Britain











OURAIM

Organisation to Understand Radical Arab
& Islamist Movements

===========================================

By Sukant Chandan

Sukant.Chandan@gmail.com

Editor of OURAIM publications

09 June 2007

SUMMARY:

- Magazine containing articles, extracts of books from academics and intellectuals and leaders of Hamas and Hizbullah closed down and magazines seized by police on Saturday 09 June under Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 for displaying the Hamas logo on front cover.

- An attack on the democratic freedom to write, print and distribute information

- Reject criminalisation of independent media and journalistic activity

- The OURAIM Magazine on Hamas and Hizbullah has no direct or indirect organisational link to either organisation, and OURAIM does not support any Islamist movement

- An attack on the development mutual-understanding and respect between British and Arab and Muslim people, specifically Palestinians and Lebanese

- OURAIM stresses the necessity for developing dialogue and understanding as opposed to conflict and hostility


THE MAGAZINE

OURAIM’s magazine on Hamas and Hizbullah is a magazine that facilitates a greater understanding of the history, ideology of these organisations and their socio-political contexts. The magazine is purely for information purposes, and is in no way connected directly or indirectly to either Hamas or Hizbullah.

The magazine has been widely distributed in bookshops and at political events since the summer of 2006 when the Israeli military occupation and bombardment of Lebanon was at its peak.

The magazine features analysis of Hamas and Hizbullah by various academics such as Amal Saad al-Ghorayeb and Khaled Hroub, articles from political figures such as George Galloway MP in the article from The Socialist Worker, ‘Hizbullah is right to fight Zionist terror’. There are interviews, extracts from books and articles from newspapers of senior political leaders in the respective political organisations. One such article featured is Khalid Meshaal’s article in The Guardian, ‘We Shall Not Sell Our Principles for Foreign Aid’. Another such article are the extracts from Hizbullah Deputy General Secretary Sheikh Naim Qassem ‘Hizbullah, the story from within’, published by Saqi.

MAGAZINE MADE ILLEGAL

The OURAIM publication on Hamas and Hizbullah was effectively shut down and made illegal by the British state today on 9th June. This took place at approx 3.30pm, towards the end of the demonstration to commemorate the 40th year of the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories taken in the 1967 war.

Towards the end of the march, at the Strand edge of Trafalgar Square, I was apprehended by two police officers while selling these magazines on the demo. I was detained in total for one and a half hours on the side of the pavement, while the whole demonstration was streaming past. Five other demonstrators stopped to show support and were themselves detained by the police. We were asked to give our full personal details (name, address, DOB), and were searched (bags and pockets).

Another 11 demonstrators came to stand in support with us, and were very helpful and I would like to thank them all. Dr Mohammed Sawalha from the British Muslim Initiative was very helpful, as was another young Muslim man, and as were supporters of the magazine Fight Racism Fight Imperialism.

First the police officers informed me that the Hizbullah party logo which is displayed on the back cover of the magazine could be breaking the law, as they said Hizbullah are a proscribed terrorist organisation and the publication and promotion of the party through that logo could be breaking the law. This later proved to be incorrect as the police discovered after several calls to Special Branch from New Scotland Yard. In fact, Hizbullah is not a proscribed organisation in this country, nor is Hamas. It is Hizbullah’s foreign intelligence organisation and Hamas’ armed wing – the Ezzidine al-Qassam Brigades, that are proscribed on the terrorism list.

Towards the end of my detention by the police, a man from the demo approached me asking if he could buy the magazine, just as he was paying for it, the policeman said ‘I cannot allow you to sell it as it maybe illegal to be in possession of this magazine’.

Finally, about one hour and a half later, the police were told by Special Branch via phone calls, to state that it was not the Hizbullah logo that was the problem, but the Hamas logo on the front page, which was breaking the law under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, but they were going to let me and the other detainees go anyway. All of the magazines (the remaining 9, of a batch of one hundred which were all sold on the day) were seized as they were deemed to be illegal.

This act of political censorship and repression can be seen in context of the growing understanding, sympathy and even support for Hamas and Hizbullah in the British progressive, peace and solidarity movements. It must have been with consternation that the British establishment witnessed last summer on inner-city London streets people marching in opposition to the Israeli aggression against Lebanon, with many thousands of people carrying Hizbullah flags and one of the main slogans of the march itself being ‘We are all Hizbullah’. The seizure and banning of OURAIM’s magazine is a sign that the British state is clamping down on avenues of dialogue and understanding between people in Britain and in Palestine and Lebanon.


DEFENDING OUR BASIC DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS

AND THOSE OF THE PEOPLE IN PALESTINE AND LEBANON

This act by the British state is an attack on the democratic rights of people to have access to information. Essentially, this banning is another example of the policies of the British state of criminalising attempts at pursuing, instead of war, violence and military occupation, strategies of mutual respect between the peoples of Britain and the peoples of the Arab and Islamic world.

It sounds rather bizarre to even have to assert an obvious democratic right; it is nevertheless important that people defend the democratic right to write, print and distribute, and have in one’s possession reading material such as the OURAIM magazine. It allows people access to a more nuanced and in-depth access to a subject which they would otherwise not find from the mainstream English-language media. Mainstream media seldom allows the opinions of real academic authorities on these issues, or the voice of the leaders of those movements. In the case of Hamas and Hizbullah, these are democratically elected political parties existing within mass municipal and national institutional and governmental structures.

It is very important to understand the significance and consequences of this clampdown. The Terrorism Act 2000 not only criminalises support (or suspected support) for democratic political organisations: by making possession of political literature a criminal offence, the state is attempting to put the public off political involvement altogether. Despite all the pious speeches about how to ‘re-engage’ a non-voting public, government policy in reality undermines the potential for engagement. If people see others being detained or arrested for possessing political literature, many will be scared to touch a political leaflet again.


NEED FOR UNDERSTANDING AND DIALOGUE

Not Criminalisation and War

As in Ireland with the Irish Republican Army and Sinn Fein, Britain should pursue a path of political engagement based on the demands of the oppressed community: in the case of Ireland the Irish Catholics, Nationalists and Republicans; in the case of today, Muslims and Arabs (or anyone who might look like anything but white). Therefore it is even more important that people in Britain defend the right to have access to and read and hear these voices of the Arab and Muslim communities. The British could have saved thousands of lives had they engaged with the Republican Movement in the 1970s and 80s. British policy of criminalisation, imprisonment without trial (internment), supporting Loyalist death squads and military occupation didn’t work with the Irish, and it will not work today with Arab and Muslim people. British policies in Ireland in this period only served to lengthen the suffering of people then and intensify the conflict. Near exact British policies today are having the same effect in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

OURAIM PROMOTING AN ALTERNATIVE OF MUTUAL RESPECT

The sooner there is a political alternative based on mutual respect between the ‘West’ and the Arab and Islamic people, the sooner the world will avoid needless conflict and suffering, especially that of the Arabs and Muslims in the West and in the Arab and Islamic world. OURAIM seeks just this alternative through articles and analysis, publication and media work. We hope we can get wide support for our activities and other such similar activities.

Send messages of support to the OURAIM blog and donations via PayPal for our work and legal costs to ouraim@gmail.com

Sukant Chandan is an expert on Arab and Islamic, Irish, Black Nationalist and Western Cultural Studies. He writes for two websites: Sons of Malcolm that focuses on ‘Third Worldist’ politics and the OURAIM website where one can regularly read articles and analysis about Arab and Islamic issues

He is the editor for the publications’ of OURAIM, which is a London based political think-tank seeking to understand radical Arab and Islamist movements. All proceeds from OURAIM magazines goes into the further development of OURAIM publications

He can be contacted at

Sukant.Chandan@gmail.com

OURAIM

Organisation to Understand Radical Arab & Islamist Movements

===========================================