Methodist Church appeals for consensus on anti-terror laws

The Methodist Church is calling for the Government to seek abroad consensus on new anti-terrorism proposals following theLondon bombings. Although the Church recognises the need to givethe police the necessary powers to effectively combat terrorism,there is concern that some fundamental rights and long-standingtraditions of hospitality and refuge are threatened by several ofthe proposals.

Steve Hucklesby, Methodist Church Secretary for InternationalAffairs, says, 'Our society currently faces the difficult challengeof ensuring the security of all whilst not eroding the fundamentalhuman rights of which we are rightly proud. To meet this challengeit is necessary to encourage a climate of debate that is inclusiveof a range of views in our multi- religious and multi-ethnicsociety.

'We encourage the Government to foster broad cross-party consensusas it explores changes to legislation in the light of the Londonbombings. There will be widespread support for some of theGovernment's anti-terror proposals. However some appear to gobeyond what we need to ensure our security, raising questionsconcerning fundamental rights and challenging our tradition ofproviding a safe haven for those who flee persecution. Otherproposals raise questions concerning the independence of thejudiciary or seemingly fail to recognise that there is often a gulfbetween 'extremist' and 'criminal'.

'For example, many will question how the proposal to introduce newpowers to close down places of worship will be balanced withfundamental rights regarding freedom to worship, or indeed howeffective such measures will be. It is right that we re-examinemeasures to enable the police to ensure our security but theGovernment must give serious attention to the scope for enhancingexisting powers before proposing new legislation.

'The opportunity for public debate is valuable. The Government'sreaffirmation of its desire for consultation with the Muslimcommunity is welcome. However such consultation is going to be moredifficult if founded on proposals that are unclear and createsuspicion. Ultimately terrorism cannot be defeated by securitymeasures alone.'

The Church is also reaffirming its support for Muslims in theirconversations and debates about the roots of terrorism andextremism within their communities. Elizabeth Harris, MethodistChurch Secretary for Interfaith relations, says 'Since July 7thdialogue among Muslims about the causes of terrorism and religiousextremism has intensified. Christians have helped this processthough showing friendship and solidarity. Legislation that mightpush underground those Muslims tempted by extremism could hinderthis dialogue and increase divisions within the Muslim community,thereby strengthening extremism.'