Anti-terrorism measures due to be announced today amount to more of the same tried and failed prescription that has been dispensed by successive governments in recent years.
The powers are part of a new government bill ostensibly drafted to increase anti-terrorism powers in the wake of the murder of off-duty British soldier Lee Rigby in London in July 2013.
They include extending the government’s PREVENT anti-radicalisation agenda to schools and colleges and allowing border officials to temporarily seize passports of people they suspect are travelling to fight abroad.
IHRC views the bill as yet another attempt by the executive to erode civil liberties and ‘otherise’ the Muslim community. Each time there is a terrorist act committed by a Muslim the moment is cynically seized by politicans to garner more powers and further target an already beleagured community.
Studies and even a Parliamentary Report have concluded that the PREVENT regime of attempting to stop young Muslims from becoming radicalised is not working and simply alienating Muslims in Britain by serving as a cover for intelligence gathering on the community. The programme is widely discredited and seeking to extend it further will likely only be counter-productive. PREVENT has not succeeded in staunching terrorism as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, himself conceded over the weekend when he said the number of ‘lone wolf’ attacks foiled in 2014 had gone up compared to previous years.
Statistics show that the application of existing wide-ranging anti-terrorism laws is discriminatory and disproportionate against the Muslim community. For example Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act which gives border officials the right to detain and question individuals they suspect of involvement in terrorism has in practice disproportionately targeted Muslims and ethnic minorities. And since 2001, some 70% of all arrests under terrorism legislation have been of non-whites. The legislation has effectively legitimised religious profiling of Muslims and created a social climate in which it is acceptable to treat them with suspicion and hostility.
The bill also completely ignores the fact that Muslims are the biggest victims of terrorism both at home and abroad. Prior to the murder of Lee Rigby, Muslim pensioner Mohammed Saleem was stabbed to death in Birmingham and local mosques attacked with nail bombs by the far-right perpetrator. Muslims and their properties all over the country came under violent abuse and attacks. Last year Saudi student Naid Almanea was stabbed to death as she walked to university wearing the Islamic face veil in Colchester. In practice neither the PREVENT programme nor anti-terror laws protect Muslims in any way from anti-Muslim terrorism.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “To go down the same route of policies which have failed to address terrorism is just going to alienate Muslims further and increase ‘otherisation’ of communities, encouraging the kind of victimisation that has resulted in ever-increasing attacks on places of worship and individuals. To tackle any criminality outside the safeguards of due process will only exacerbate the problem and strengthen the twisted logic of those who commit acts of terror. We urge the government to not to further erode fundamental rights and uphold them equally for all citizens.”
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
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Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222