London’s mayor has called on the UK government to proscribe the political wing of Hezbollah as pressure grows for action to stop the group’s flag from being flown during the annual Al Quds march in the capital on Sunday.
The UK has only proscribed the military wing of the organisation and police say they cannot act against marchers carrying the flag during Sunday’s march in support of the people of Palestine.
Sadiq Khan has written to the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid – two men who represent the most senior Muslim politicians in Britain - to “raise his deep concerns about the support shown for Hezbollah at the annual Al Quds Day march,” said a mayor’s spokesman.
Mr Khan wrote to Mr Javid’s predecessor, Amber Rudd, in 2017 to unsuccessfully press his case for a ban on the group. He wrote to Mr Javid after Ms Rudd quit the job in April over an immigration scandal at the department.
In his letter seen by The National, Mr Khan said: "I have deep concerns, as do many others, about support shown for Hezbollah at the annual Al Quds Day march.
“Anti-semitism or hate crime of any kind has no place in our city, where instead we celebrate our diversity.
“I was disappointed that your predecessor refused my request last year to proscribe the political wing of Hezbollah in this country, which would have closed a legal loophole exploited as a vehicle for extremist views.
“I once again urge you as Home Secretary to reconsider that decision.”
The UK proscribed part of Hezbollah’s military wing in 2001 and then extended measures in 2008 but also confirmed it did not apply to the Iranian-backed organisation’s political activities.
The group is fully proscribed by the UAE and the United States, which last month imposed sanctions on Hezbollah's representative to Iran, as well as a financier and five companies in Europe, West Africa and the Middle East.
Proscription makes it illegal to be a member, support or arrange a meeting to back the group. It also bans supportive clothing and banners and the group’s assets are subject to freezing and seizure.
British police have previously said that the Hezbollah flag represents the whole of the organisation and they cannot act against anyone just carrying it without further grounds to indicate they were supporting terrorism.
Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission which is organising the London march, opposed the mayor’s intervention. “The reason for proscribing an organisation is not because people are finding it distasteful or dislike it but because of a genuine security risk.”