The British Government announced on Tuesday it was proscribing an Islamist group that planned an anti-war demonstration in a town where the public mourning of British soldiers killed on active service in Afghanistan are held.
British Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced on Tuesday that he was banning 'Islam4UK', a radical Islamist group who advocate the implementation of Sharia law in the UK.
Last week, the group announced plans to hold a protest march through Wooton Basset, a town in the south west of England where informal public mourning takes place to honor British soldiers killed in Afghanistan when their funeral cortège makes its way from local Air Force base RAF Lyneham to Oxford.
On the group's website, its mission statement, which it has now removed, said: "[Islam4uk has] "been established by sincere Muslims as a platform to propagate the supreme Islamic ideology within the UK as a divine alternative to man-made law" and [to] "convince the British public about the superiority of Islam...thereby changing public opinion in favor of Islam in order to transfer the authority and power...to the Muslims in order to implement the Sharia."
Reports said that Islam4UK planned to carry 500 empty coffins through Wooton Basset during the protest to "represent the thousands of Muslims who have died."
The announcement sparked outrage and was condemned by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said that plans for the march were "disgusting" and to offend the families of dead or wounded troops would be "completely inappropriate."
On Sunday, the group called off the march after widespread condemnation. However in an announcement, the group claimed that the publicity generated had "successfully highlighted the plight of Muslims in Afghanistan" and that "no more could be achieved even if a procession were to take place in Wootton Bassett."
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Islam4UK is an offshoot of Al Muhajiroun, a group already banned under British terrorism legislation. It was founded by the controversial cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed who disbanded the group in 2004, just as the Government was about to outlaw it, persuading him to go into voluntary exile in Lebanon.
In 2003 Al Muhajiroun organized four rallies across the UK to celebrate the "Magnificent 19" plane hijackers who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. Advertisements for the events had pictures of the 19 hijackers on a backdrop of the World Trade Centre in flames and a smiling Osama bin Laden.
On Tuesday, Home Secretary Johnson used counter-terrorism laws to ban the groups. This means it will be a criminal offence to become a member of these groups or to attend or address any meetings in their name.
Under the Terrorism Act 2000, a group can be banned if it "commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for, promotes or encourages terrorism or is otherwise concerned in terrorism."
Groups can also be proscribed if they "unlawfully glorify the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism."
"I have today laid an order which will proscribe Al Muhajiroun, Islam4UK and a number of the other names the organization goes by. It is already proscribed under two other names - Al Ghurabaa and The Saved Sect," Johnson said.
The ban will allow authorities to take down websites run by the groups and makes it an offence to raise funds on their behalf.
"Proscription is a tough but necessary power to tackle terrorism and is not a course we take lightly. We are clear that an organization should not be able to circumvent proscription by simply changing its name," the minister added.
The order will come into effect on Thursday and it will become a criminal offence to be a member of the group, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Speaking on BBC Radio on Tuesday, Islam4UK spokesman Anjem Choudary said they are an "ideological and political organization" and not a violent one.
"What the people will see is if you don't agree with the government and you want to expose their foreign policy, then freedom quickly dissipates and turns into dictatorship.
"We are always at pains to stress that we are an ideological and political organisation," he said.
Choudary said that he will not use any group that the government has banned.
"We won't be using those names and those platforms which have been proscribed, but I can't stop being a Muslim, I can't stop propagating Islam, I can't stop praying, I can't stop calling for the Sharia. That's something I must do, and ultimately I will pay whatever price I need to for my belief," he added.
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