Muslims fewer rights than murderers

27th Sep 2019
Muslims fewer rights than murderers

(Photo Flowcomm/Flickr Commons)

When Muslims travel abroad there is a high-risk ordeal of being stopped and interrogated at the ports either before leaving Britain or upon returning. Harrowing personal tales of being detained up to six hours, or being stopped over 20 times during trips have become more common. Though denied by the Government, the use of Schedule 7 is rather a blunt tool like other anti-terrorism powers. Effectively, the detentions add up to nothing more but fishing expeditions of people

Only 30 people (0.007 per cent) of the 419,000 stopped under Schedule 7 in the last decade have been convicted.

There are no words to describe the abuse of power other than blatant intimidation and harassment. Although the detention time travellers have to endure has been substantially reduced over the years to six hours, it remains quite a tribulation even of nightmare proportions.

Not only are flights and travel connections missed but much more than that, there is a distinct and frequent unnecessary removal of basic rights. Detainees have no right to remain silent; phones, computers and passwords must be surrendered and fingerprints and DNA must be provided on request. People are criminalised without even being accused of committing any offence.

Also refuted by the Government is that passengers are profiled by race and religion. But according to an analysis by a human rights group, Cage, there cannot be any dispute since no less than 88 per cent of those stopped at ports are Muslims. Schedule 7 is “an affront to the principle of the rule of law” and “detrimental” to trust between society and state as the advocacy group spells out while calling for the special powers to be revoked.

Why are there no normative criminal law safeguards? Why does Schedule 7 disregard due process at every level? Why can travellers be stopped and interrogated without suspicion? Why do detainees face such intrusive questions about religion and practice, even their political beliefs? Why is it so discriminatory against Muslims? Would adherents of any other faith stay silence in the face of such adversity and allow all their fellow followers to be singled out in such a prejudicial way?

The special powers not only lack oversight but are vulnerable to abuse. This includes the growing anecdotal evidence that Muslim women are being forced to remove their headscarves. But for what purposes when murderers are given more basic rights. Worryingly testimonies collected by CAGE show that Schedule 7 stops are regularly approached to become informants by MI5 to spy on their co-religionists.

Schedule 7 is not an isolated practice but is part of a national and global legislative framework. It has startling similarities with a police stop-and-search under Section 43 and Section 47A of the Terrorism Act 2000 as well as the old discredited ‘sus’ laws. Suffice to say, Muslims are again targeted in what effectively is a surveillance method to collect mass data on the 3.5 million communities in the UK.

The legislation is morally reprehensible and deeply questionable that simply reinforces the narratives of far-right organisations. It is not only unfit for purpose and more counterproductive like most misguided counter-terrorism measures. It is blatant interference in the lives of Muslims going about their normal business.

What is more, the detention of Muslims at ports and airports is so disproportionate that the use of Schedule 7 has been shown to be Islamophobic. Such animosity towards Muslims has become so extensive that it has become an epidemic. If it is the case with laws and government policies to be so tainted prejudices, can there be any hope of stemming the floodgate unless examples are set from the top? A good place to start would be to install new attitudes and repeal Schedule 7.

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