New draconian anti terror laws passed

27th Feb 2015

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 is now part of the statute books after progressing through the Houses of Parliament on a compressed timetable and receiving Royal Assent on February 12. In summary, the legislation allows the Government to invalidate passports of British citizens, prevent British citizens returning home and internally exile British citizens for up to two years. Most dangerously, the law also places statutory authorities to implement the Prevent extremism strategy.

The law provides a significant amount of power to the Government and security services with little evidence that this is likely to help prevent terrorism. Consider the police powers of stop and search, which similarly had a goal of providing security – these have been shown to be both ineffective and counter-productive, as they have alienated vast swathes of the British population.

The unfortunate reality is that if the Government has the right to remove passports from British citizens, it will use it, as it did with Sabure Malik who was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act on his return from Hajj with his elderly mother. Furthermore, it will use this power in a discriminatory fashion as occurred with stop and search – as even if the law is theoretically blind to colour and creed, its implementation is not.

But assuming that these extra powers were used in the way they were intended, there remain two dangers: firstly, whilst not explicit, an entire part of the legislation seems to have been developed to deal with Muslims going to or returning from Syria. No similar legislation was considered necessary for those going to or returning from Chechnya, Afghanistan, Israel, Ireland or Bosnia.

So it is unclear why it would be more necessary here; secondly, even if it were warranted, this results in a change in focus. Money is being funnelled into enacting these new powers that have no proven track record of success rather than into intelligence-led and targeted surveillance, which does have such a track record. In fact, a significant proportion of those who have committed violent acts of terror, were already under surveillance but clearly enough focus was not on them.

There is also a serious concern about placing the Prevent strategy on a statutory footing without any concern for the impact on communities. What this means is that at any level from nursery to university, from your doctor to your local council – all public authorities have to have procedures in place to consider whether you are a likely terrorist, and in such cases follow a set of guidelines to decide what to do. Whilst there will be training, there is little doubt that this will be focussed on Muslims, resulting in millions of people being seen as potential terrorists from when they are at nursery to when they are adults and go to the doctor.

Just imagine a 3-year-old playing with a toy gun, or a university student who discusses issues such as how to best respond when faced with an overwhelmingly powerful government that is brutally attacking your people – these may be considered potential terrorists by teachers if they are Muslim, and have their record stained forever. It is clear that no philosophy student who supports “the benevolent dictator” theory or anarchy, who is white and English, would be seen in the same light as a Muslim who wanted an Islamic state led by a Caliph.

The former Director of MI5, Baroness Manningham-Buller, believes that Prevent “is clearly not working....it also follows, therefore, that I am not convinced of the value of putting Prevent on a statutory footing.” And this is the reality – it is a failed strategy based on the false premise that there is a linear conveyor belt as people are radicalised by becoming non-violent extremists first and then violent extremists (the so-called “conveyor belt theory”).

This premise has been proven false not only by leading academics such as Professor Peter Neumann, but also by security services themselves e.g. the ex-CIA Operations officer Mark Sageman, and the MI5 Behavioural Unit which both looked at 100s of case studies and showed no such link existed.

The purpose of the legislation is primarily to deal with so-called Islamist terrorism with little regard for far-right violence and terrorism that is becoming more and more widespread. The subsequent discrimination and perception of being seen through the lens of counter-terrorism, alienates the Muslim community – and it is well documented that alienation and exclusion from public spaces leads to people having a greater chance of being radicalised.

The Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, said on February 17 that we need to “overhaul the Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent programme so that parents, families, neighbours, mosques, and friends are all in the first line of defence against violent extremism.”

Whilst there should be no special duty on the Muslim community to fight against terrorism, there is merit to this thinking – as like all communities, Muslims would support the goal of improving the safety and security of the nation, in particular in the specific areas where Muslims are involved. However, such an initiative is going to be difficult when the Muslim community has been ignored and not engaged with, other than in a patronising and condescending manner, leading to little trust in a government that seems to be treating Muslims as an easy target before the upcoming general elections.

The Government needs to re-build trust through engaging with the Muslim community and that work needs to start now. They also need to re-visit the draconian anti terrorism law as civil liberties of Muslims are going to further erode.

One Response to “New draconian anti terror laws passed”

Ian Barnettt.March 24, 2015

The problem seems to be islam and not merely islamic ‘terror’. Clearly islam as a cult (for that is all it can be) is a joke and has nothing whatsoever to offer anyone. The rituals and teachings surrounding this cult are beyond stupid. It appears that the Government has made a very poor analysis of the situation. Though I remain ‘open-minded’ on all subjects nothing I have seen or read over the last fifty or so years has altered my thinking and I have never heard one sustainable argument to the contrary.

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