If I were Prime Minister: I'd send a British peacekeeping force to Gaza

Our series in the run-up to the General Election – 100 days, 100 contributors, but no politicians – continues with the campaigner and former Guantanamo detainee

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The Independent Online

If I were Prime Minster I’d want Britain to be respected (and not despised) beyond the English-speaking world. I’d do this by ensuring that Britain’s foreign policy was in line with British interests, not American.

First, I would acknowledge that the presence of our troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan exacerbated the situation in those countries and was the key factor in creating terrorism at home.

I would further acknowledge that our unashamed support for Israel and failure to condemn its destruction, occupation, seizure and settlement of Palestinian land, despite countless UN resolutions condemning the latter, was unconscionable.

I’d redress these matters by banning the sale of weapons to countries like Israel, Iraq, Egypt and the Gulf States. I’d withdraw our forces from aerial campaigns and instead send a British peacekeeping force to Gaza for the protection of Palestinians. This would also increase the desire for British Muslims to join the army and increase community cohesion. I would recognise Palestine and the right to return of its people.

I would instigate prosecutions and sanctions against those heads of state who ordered the killing of their own, or other people. I would further ensure that those complicit in torture, rendition and false imprisonment face criminal prosecution. I’d pressurise the US to empty the Guantanamo prison, under threat of sanctions, and find meaningful resettlements for the innocent inmates.

I’d renegotiate the Extradition Treaty with the US so that it was reciprocal and not one-sided.

Having removed the most salient causes of terrorism I would repeal many laws including Glorification of Terrorism Act (2006), which has seen prosecutions against poets and publishers; schedule 7, Terrorism Act (2000) which disproportionately targets Muslims at airports; and, I’d scrap the Counter Security and Terrorism Bill (CTS) which will convert the UK into a police state.

I’d have meaningful nationwide consultations with target communities on the meanings and parameters of extremism, radicalism and terrorism. I would not leave it up to politicians, judges and government ‘experts’ to interpret them.

I’d begin a process of dialogue with the Muslim world, including those imprisoned and deemed terrorists, just as we did in Northern Ireland.

I’d twin some British towns and cities with countries in Africa and Asia and begin cultural exchange programmes to develop more understanding, trade and respect.

Lastly, to inculcate an honest sense of Britishness I’d have our schoolteachers explain the effects of colonialisation in the world and its consequences today. Also, I’d have them teach about crucial Islamic contributions to English, maths, science, art, medicine and cuisine.

A British Muslim leader once imprisoned as a terrorism suspect might be too much. Still, a convicted terrorist was arguably the most respected head in the world. Mandela’s statue in Parliament Square is proof.

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