More than a decade after politicians launched the War on Terror, Muslims are still feeling the brunt of state repression.
Fresh research by detainee rights organisation Cage shows that “potentially close to one million people” have been stopped under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. And the overwhelming majority—88 percent—have been Muslim.
The law allows officers to detain people without suspicion and hold them for up to nine hours at airports, ports and international rail stations.
Omar, a health care professional, has been stopped approximately
40 times, charged once, but has never been convicted of any crime. He was first stopped when travelling back from Lahore, Pakistan, with his wife and five children in 2005.
He told Socialist Worker, “As soon as I got to the airport, I knew I was going to get stopped because all the officers were looking at me.
“I was told that if I don’t cooperate, they’d stop my wife and children as well.”
Omar says that “from then I was the best boy” in the six to seven hours or questioning. “When they took me back to my family, they led me through a security door and slammed it shut,” he said.
“I could see my family was crying, and they explained that officers had told them I was going inside for 25 years.
“I decided the next time I wouldn’t be the same, because when I was deemed helpful, all I got was my family being traumatised.”
Cases in Cage’s research include people being asked to strip naked, hand over passwords and to become informants for the MI5 spy agency (see below).
People stopped can be made to go through a three-stage process—“screening”, “examination” and “detention”.
Home Office statistics indicate that over 419,000 people have undergone “examinations” in the last decade alone. But there are no figures for before 2009, and the published statistics do not include people who were only screened.
Cage’s report says its “conservative estimate” for the total number is “close to one million”.
Only 100 people have been charged and 44 convicted under Schedule 7.
But hundreds of thousands more have been stigmatised, humiliated and had their lives ruined. And that’s because terror laws were brought in to target Muslims and paint them as an “enemy within”. As Omar said, “I was charged for not giving the pin number to my phone.
“But the recording proved that I had not been asked.
“Yet I could have been convicted, been made out to be a terrorist and lost my livelihood.”
He added, “I truly believe it’s to teach Muslims a lesson—if you mess with us, we can destroy your life.”
New terror law to further ramp up Islamophobia
The Tories’ new terror law will give cops and spooks even greater powers to clamp down on Muslims.
The Schedule 3 of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, passed in February, will give the state more scope to stop and search people.
And those who take a stand, for instance by refusing to hand over information, could face up to a year in jail.
The Act is one in a long line of legislation introduced in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York.
Tony Blair’s New Labour government, and the Tory ones that followed, pushed through new terror laws on average every two years since 2000.
They include the Terrorism Act 2000, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 and the Investigatory Powers Act 2016.
After 9/11 Western governments stoked Islamophobia at home in order to help justify their imperialist wars in the Middle East.
Terror laws are part of an attempt to paint Muslims as a suspect community. One Muslim woman, who was stopped on her way back from Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, said she was questioned about the Westminster Bridge attack in 2017.
She said, “I said it was wrong, that I didn’t agree with killing innocent people.
“But then she started pushing me, saying, ‘But it was politically motivated—what do you think about that?’
“I said I didn’t agree with killing innocent people.”
Spooks get in on the action
A recent survey by Cage found that 43 percent of those stopped reported that an MI5 officer was present in interrogations.
Their aim is to force Muslims to become informants within their communities.
One Muslim said, “I got to the hotel, and the MI5 guy was there.
“At the table MI5 offered money for transport, but I pushed it back on the table—I knew if I accepted, I would be under their control
“They asked if I wanted to work with them, and I said no.
“Eventually they let me go.”
Racist assault in examination
Muslims have described “examination” as racist and humiliating.
When one aid worker refused to be strip searched, he said uniformed police “dragged me and threw me on the ground
“I was being battered all over. I don’t know what they were hitting me with, but one or two of them had their knees in my back”
The aid worker said he was put in a “stress position”, dragged through the airport, and put into the back of a police van where officers “mocked him”.
Cage director Adnan Siddiqui has outlined further cases where Muslim women were targeted
“We have also been made aware more recently of a number of Muslim women who have been asked to remove their hijab.”