Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have been harassed at Britain’s border under a draconian terror law, according to a new report published on Wednesday.
The Cage detainee rights’ organisation has said that “potentially close to one million” people have been stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The law allows officers to detain people without suspicion and hold them for up to nine hours at airports, ports and international rail stations.
Only 100 people have been charged and 44 convicted since the law came into force in 2001.
Home Office statistics indicate that over 419,000 people have undergone “examinations” after being stopped in the last decade alone. There are no figures before 2009, and the published statistics do not include people who were only stopped for an initial “screening process”.
The report argues, “Our conservative estimate of the number of people stopped, including those screened, is well over 500,000 and potentially close to one million.”
Cage international director Muhammad Rabbani has been stopped over 20 times under Schedule 7 powers. He said, “The discrimination faced by Muslim travellers highlights how embedded Islamophobia is in Schedule 7 and in broader counter terrorism powers.
“Officers routinely ask intrusive questions about religion and practice, which amounts to a modern day inquisition.”
Cage shows how “the law is enforced without any requirement for reasonable suspicion or indeed any suspicion at all”. A list of cases includes people being asked to strip naked, hand over passwords and asked to become informants for the MI5 spy agency.
One British Muslim aid worker told Cage officers “didn’t give any reason” during the at least ten times they have been stopped. “They just simply said they had the right to do this,” they said.
“They went through my bags and had a look at my phone. They took photos and DNA.”
The aid worker added, “Now they know my movements before I even go. On one occasion I was marched off the plane in front of everybody.”
Previous research by Cambridge University suggests that 88 percent of those stopped are Muslim. One Muslim told Cage, “It was a quick chat for about ten minutes but regardless we noticed how they let the Caucasian travellers go right past us.
“But they stopped me and my brothers because of our Asian descent, and my older brother and I had beards.”
Cage director Adnan Siddiqui has outlined further cases affecting Muslim women in a letter to Anna Soubry, chair of the All Parliamentary Group on British Muslims. “Through our casework experience we have also been made aware more recently of a number of Muslim women who have been asked to remove their hijab,” he wrote this week.
“This request seems not to correlate with any appropriate investigation in relation to any form of terrorism.
“But it seems to be a form of humiliation which can amount to a breach of equalities legislation and an abuse of process.
“We believe that the attitude of authorities, particularly the police, to Muslims, facilitates and excuses more broad-based hatred.”
He added, “We believe the practice is a manifestation of structural Islamophobia, which is experienced as harassment.”
These sorts of draconian laws were brought in to target Muslims and paint them as an “enemy within” during the War on Terror. They should be scrapped.