Anti terrorism legislations enacted since the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania 15 years ago (pre-9/11) have mainly affected the civil liberties of Muslims in the UK. Muslims have been and continue to be under surveillance in nurseries, schools, universities, hospitals, gyms, mosques – almost every aspect of Muslim life. Their freedom of expression has been affected too. If they support movements who are fighting against occupation like in Palestine or dictatorial regimes like Syria, they may be subject to arrests under these draconian laws as supporting terrorism.
Emergency powers, including the controversial right to stop and search without any real suspicion of a crime, have been given to the police and these powers are so sweeping that they have been found to be in breach of human rights. The main thrust of the anti terror legislation has been to almost entirely focus on Muslims. Only recently, has it been used against extreme right wing white groups, even when some were found with bombs and arsenals of weapons. Were these to have been found with Muslims, there is little doubt as how the power of the law would have been used. However, even bomb attacks against mosques – what one might term as a classic example of a terrorist act – are excluded from the implementation of the terrorism legislation.
As reported by The Muslim News last month, Prime Minister, David Cameron’s reaction to the series of attacks targeting mosques has been derisory, similar to that of the mainstream press. Home Secretary, Theresa May, also declined to issue any clear and unambiguous statement in support of the Muslim community, instead writing an article for a Pakistani newspaper on the attacks. Police were also filmed standing by while an EDL demonstration chanted threats to burn mosques. Were these to have been attacks by Muslims against other communities or threats by Muslims, would there have been the same reaction by our Government, the media or the police?
It was not until Cameron was challenged at the end of Ramadan that he insisted he condemned the series of bombing in the West Midlands and elsewhere, although he still failed to describe the attacks as acts of terrorism. He also revealed, following a campaign by The Muslim News on the lack of condemnation by the Prime Minister on the issue, that the subject his extremism taskforce was also going to look into “violence and extremism suffered by Muslims communities themselves” in a change to current policy. More important than condemnation, he said, was “action.” The extremism taskforce was created after the soldier Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich to deal with radicalisation and extremism in the Muslim community.
There is truth in his claim that the Government has changed the counter terrorism PREVENT Strategy to make sure it includes combating all forms of extremism and violence. But this was only after years of warnings by The Muslim News that the growth of right-wing groups was being neglected. Still, there remains only a small section in the PREVENT policy to deal with the growing and real threat faced British Muslim citizens – constituency that seems to have borne the brunt of the terrorism legislation and now the right-wing threat, without the support of the politicians elected to represent them.