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Groundless anti-terror laws must go

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Anti-terror powers are about protecting UK foreign policy from dissent, rather than protecting the ­public from violence


Yes, the counter-terrorism and security bill is "ideological extremism masquerading as British values", especially by conflating extremism with dissent against unjust western policies (Karma Nabulsi, Opinion, 4 February). In a familiar pattern, every terrorist act is exploited for strengthening executive powers, extending punishment without trial, widening powers of the security services, eroding fundamental freedoms, and further targeting Muslim communities. Moreover, the government's latest bill would require public institutions to monitor and suppress "extremist" voices – supposedly to prevent terrorism.

All anti-terror powers are based on the Terrorism Act 2000. It redefined terrorism, blurring any distinction between violent acts and political dissent, thus criminalising vague association and speech acts. Anti-terror powers are about protecting UK foreign policy from dissent, rather than protecting the public from violence.

This political agenda explains the discriminatory application of anti-terrorism laws. For example, schedule 7 of the act, which authorises border officials to detain and question individuals, has disproportionately targeted Muslims and ethnic minorities. Since 2001, some 70% of all arrests under anti-terrorism legislation have been of non-whites. Such practices serve a politics of fear – marginalising Muslim and migrant communities, making others fear them, creating mutual mistrust and increasing risks of violent attack. This Orwellian agenda makes our society more dangerous, not safer.

Ordinary criminal law remains adequate to protect the public from violence; terrorist attacks have resulted from inadequately using intelligence and available powers, not from inadequate powers. Therefore we advocate the repeal of all anti-terrorism legislation since the Terrorism Act 2000.

Lady Jones Green party

Shahrar Ali Deputy leader, Green party

Les Levidow Campaign Against Criminalising Communities

Arzu Merali Islamic Human Rights Commission

Hanne Stevens Director, Rights Watch (UK)

Asim Qureshi Cage-UK

Malia Bouattia NUS black students' officer

Zarah Sultana NUS National Executive Council

Zekarias Negussue NEC representative, NUS Black Students' Campaign

Arwa Almari West Yorkshire Racial Justice Network

The Guardian; 5 February 2015

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