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UK Muslim groups to pursue legal action against UAE over terrorist list

UAE includes three UK-based groups on a 'terror list' of more than 80 movements worldwide
A man wearing a Muslim cap listens to a news conference criticizing April 8th's daylong hearing on terrorism preparedness in New York City on April 7, 2011. (AFP)

The leaders of two prominent Muslim organisations in the UK said they are considering taking legal action against the United Arab Emirates after their groups were placed on a terrorist list by the oil-rich Gulf nation on Saturday.

A total of 85 organisations, including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are named on a terrorist list endorsed by the UAE’s cabinet, as are the Muslim Brotherhood, a political movement whose leader Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military in Egypt last summer after mass protests.

The inclusion of several Islamic think tanks, lobby groups and humanitarian organisations from across Europe and America on the list has provoked a public outcry, with leaders of the groups blaming the UAE for tarnishing their reputation and undermining the work they do for Muslim communities.

Two UK-based groups, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), an advocacy group involved in promoting Islamic belief and the Cordoba Foundation, a think tank, denied any links with terrorism and said they are planning to seek libel charges against the Emirati government.

“We are consulting with our lawyers to see what kind of legal action we will be taking,” Omer al-Hamdoon, a 42-year-old Imam who heads the British Muslim Association (MAB) in London told Middle East Eye.

It is not clear how, or through which courts, the two groups intend to press any charges.

Addressing journalists at the MAB’s North London headquarters, Al-Hamdoon, 42, said the UAE list would “damage the credibility and good work that many of these groups have undertaken worldwide” and that it risked “marginalising the voices of many ordinary Muslims who may now be treated as terrorists.”

Founded in 1997, the MAB’s stated mission is to “serve society by promoting mainstream understandings of Islam.”

The group, which boasts 600 members, has provided training on Islamic issues to British police cadets and organised sporting events and visits to mosques for Muslim youths.

In 2005 members of the MAB overtook a mosque in central London and expelled followers of the extremist cleric, Abu Hamza al-Masri, whom they accused of “promoting hatred.”

“We have stood firm against extremism here in this country, we open bridges between Muslim community and the rest,” said Hamdoon.

But since the Muslim Brotherhood’s ouster last year in Egypt the MAB and other Msulim groups like it in the UK have come under increased scrutiny amongst allegations they serve as a front for the Brotherhood.

Earlier this year the MAB was investigated as part of a government review into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK.

In its manifesto, the MAB says it “shares some of the principles of the Muslim Brotherhood upholding democracy, freedom of the individual, social justice and the creation of a civil society”.

International list, domestic concerns

Also added to the UAE’s terrorist list was Islah, the UAE’s affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has faced an intense crackdown by Emirati authorities who view the group as a challenge to its dynastic power.

Though the terror list may have international ramifications, analysts say, it is also about domestic political calculations.

“The list is a serious reflection of UAE attitudes toward Islamists of all stripes and the political threat Islamists represent,” said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a fellow in Gulf politics at the Washington Institute, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.

“All we have to do is look at who the UAE is trying in its security court to see who it perceives as its number one security threat – Islamists and their supporters,” she said.

A number of Arab countries, notably the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all see the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to their rule and want the UK as their ally to ban it.

There have even been veiled hints from the Gulf that trade deals with the UK could suffer if the review did not result in a ban.

Last year 68 people, most of them al-Islah members, were convicted of a plot to overthrow the government. Human rights groups say authorities have failed to investigate "credible" allegations of torture of the defendants.

The oil-rich UAE has not seen the street protests that have rocked the political order elsewhere in the region, with a good number of nationals apparently content with life under the country’s generous welfare system.

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