London: Britain`s government said Tuesday it will ban an Islamist group whose proposed protest march through a town known for honoring British soldiers killed in Afghanistan drew national outrage.
The group, Islam4UK, will be banned starting Thursday, said Home Secretary Alan Johnson. The move will allow authorities to arrest people who meet in the group`s name and seize its assets.
Islam4UK reacted with outrage. Omar Bakri Mohamed, a Lebanon-based cleric who serves as the group`s spiritual leader, claimed that the ban could push some of his members to violence.
The government`s decision comes after Islam4UK drew national outrage by proposing a protest march at Wootton Bassett, 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of London. The small market town is well-known in Britain for its quiet repatriation ceremonies for British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
The town`s residents join the families of the dead and war veterans to line the streets and watch servicemen`s bodies being driven through from a nearby air base.
Anjem Choudary, Bakri`s U.K.-based colleague, threatened to bring 500 Islamists through the streets of Wootton Basset to highlight Afghan civilian deaths at the hands of NATO-led forces. After
The lawmakers called the move a distasteful publicity stunt and many called for Choudary`s group to be outlawed.
Bakri said that the ban was "the gravest mistake," describing his group was peaceful think-tank whose younger members would be pushed toward violence if it were driven underground.
In a telephone interview from Tripoli, Lebanon, Bakri claimed that he was lobbying for a peaceful reaction to the ban.
"We (were) never involved with any violence, yet," he said.
Bakri`s group argues that, as Muslims, they`re not bound by British law and has expressed support for bin Laden and al-Qaida. In its previous incarnation as al-Muhajiroun, the group was linked to several terror suspects and was accused of recruiting British Muslims to fight in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Bakri has acknowledged that some of al-Muhajiroun members have engaged in militant attacks but says the group can`t be held responsible for their actions.