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Terror bill does not target Muslims—AG

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Representatives of the Muslim community appearing before Parliament’s Joint Select Committee examining Antiterrorism amendments. From left, Sheraz Ali (Nur E Islam mosque, El Socorro), Concerned Muslims of T&T attorney Criston Williams, Imtiaz Mohammed (PRO/CMTT and Islamic Missionaries Guild). PICTURE OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENT

Good news for T&T’s Muslim pilgrims. Mecca, Medina and other Saudi Arabian places where Muslims worship won’t be among “declared geographical” locations which travellers will have to notify authorities about under proposed anti-terrorism law.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi confirmed this yesterday as a Parliamentary committee examined proposed clauses of the anti-terrorism bill to be brought before Parliament. The committee heard views from the T&T Police Service, the Concerned Muslims of T&T (CMTT) (involving various groups) and Muslim Roundtable (including long-standing Muslim organisations).

Al-Rawi sought to clarify concerns on the bill which arose, particularly from CMTT, on Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in the Middle East. One clause of the bill allows the National Security Minister to designate certain areas—where listed entities engage in hostile activities— as “declared geographical areas.” Travellers to those places will have to notify the Police Commissioner of their plans.

CMTT representatives, including attorney Criston Williams, and PRO Imtiaz Mohammed expressed concern about annual travels by T&T Muslim pilgrims, many elderly.

CMTT estimated 300 people attend Hajj annually, plus 300 for Umrah, in Dubai and Jerusalem also.

There are four tour operators, all with different arrangements.

This year one operator proposed using a plane via Africa to reach Saudi Arabia. There are 25 to 50 Islamic students in Saudia Arabia, Egypt, and Africa plus T&T nationals who return to lecture in local jamaats for Ramadan. Apart from assurance on Saudi Arabia, Mecca and Medina travel, Al-Rawi said National Security will designate zones based on information. He noted, for instance, videos of T&T’s Shane Crawford in Syria boasting of his Islamic State links.

Al-Rawi said there are many T&T citizens with family in war-torn places including Syria, Damascus, Baghdad, “...myself included,” he added. His father is Iraqi. Many of T&T’s Arab community also have family in the Middle East but made no submissions on the bill, he added.

Rather than being a “sword,” Al-Rawi said the bill was a “shield” for T&T nationals. He noted a number of citizens have had visas revoked, put on no-fly lists and seen their zakat and financial contributions run afoul of other countries’ systems.

He said once people notified the CoP of travel to declared zones, T&T would have a record of their travel to show. “The minute they give reasons, that’s the end of the story,” he said.

There will be no penalty for failing to give the CoP notification.

Notification will be written—but there’s no requirement to give financial information. Al-Rawi dispelled fears returning pilgrims might be arrested on arrival at Piarco Airport. On CMTT concerns that reference in the bill to Isis/ Da’esh and Al Qaeda would infer Muslims were targetted in clauses, Al-Rawi said the Government does not see those two groups as Muslim or representing them. “They are haram (Arabic for forbidden),” he added.

Al-Rawi said Government did not want the international world to think T&T citizens saw Isis as Muslim.

He said the Bill was to treat with terrorism and did not target Muslims.

“All eyes are on us—me and you.

We don’t want to cause concern to anyone in the world that Isis/ Da’esh and Al Qaeda are representative of Islam,” he said.


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