The central challenges of discrimination and injustice we face as a community are rooted in perceptions of the Muslim community being associated with Terror organisations. Everything we as a community have done to deal with this has been to try to tackle the symptoms of the problem.
We are uniquely disaffected by disinformation in the public and private domain as well as legislation and the like. As a community we need greater clarification on what, how and why absolutely innocent acts can be deemed illegitimate when carried out by Muslims yet there is no guidance to prevent this nor explanation as to why this is the case.
Not only do we need guidance but we need to be heard as well. “Working with the community” must be more then a slogan it must be a meaningful process.
Broadly the issues and topics to be addressed are as follows:
1. Why is there emphasis on proscription of certain causes and not others;
2. Whyy some acts of support for overseas terror are tolerated in the UK;
3. Why terrorist organisations associated with one particular view / side are not on the proscribed list;
4. Problems arising from proscribing popular resistance movements – short term and long term;
5. Perceptions of prejudice;
6. Understanding short and long-term effects of on communities;
7. What are the influencing factors in the decision-making process – honing in on what is important – homeland security;
8. Securing access to impartiality and expert sources;
9. Balancing the arguments and interests;
10. Building a culture of confidence and cooperation;
11. Improving National Security and fighting the threat more efficiently.
The current Anti Terror legislation covers the need to tackle the threat that we face, this is something that is demonstrable as seen by the charges brought on individuals already. Government is too often over zealous in responding to a ‘crisis’ – they always think the first thing that is needed is legislation! There needs to be a moratorium or a ‘cooling off’ period to allow for everyone to analyse and think how we need to move forward. There are too many people who are just re-inventing the wheel, and very quick to throw the baby with the bath water. There are those who continue to peddle the Zionist, neo-con agenda that the Muslims are not ‘loyal’. This is not only the right-wing press but also the right (and it seems some ‘new’ left) wing politicians. The fact that ‘loyalty’ is a discussion point fuels the point that many people have made and continue to make, that you will never be ‘accepted’. The Islamophobic killing of a Muslim in Nottingham and the racist killing of a young black man is ample proof.
Haste tends to lead to legislation that is wrong in its intent and exacerbates the situation not only from the legislative perspective but also in its implementation. The huge disproportionality already created by the current Anti terror legislation is ample proof for this. The consistent message that the Police service gives is that they are too far apart from the communities they try to provide a service for. The Commissioner, and many other senior officers have mentioned this on many occasions. What strikes the community when we hear these comments is how much the police have damaged its own efforts on engagement and reassurance. Its denial of Islamophobia, its lack of enthusiasm in dealing with faith hate crime, its denial of criminalising an entire community in its use of stop and search, its denial that institutionally it has not created an environment to encourage Muslim recruits. Further, the public comments it makes regarding the Muslim community add to the disaffection felt by the entire community.
The raft of proposals announced by Tony Blair fails to address the central issue – what is causing these acts of criminality? Not one of the proposals could have stopped the 7/7 attacks. This is the central mistake that the Government made in its 2001 legislation and it is making that mistake again.
Why would we consider the proscribing of an organisation whose aims are non violent and does not call for violence? There are and have been for many decades organisations that preach unpalatable propaganda, the British National Party just to name one. When calls were made to ban such hate-trading organisation what was the Government’s response? The underlying issue of ‘banning’ or proscribing is that it is self-defeating. ‘Re-branding’ or going ‘underground are its usual responses. If these organisations or their members have committed a crime then prosecute them within the due process of the courts. When a Government claims that the terrorism we face today is international, one seriously needs to question why the very same government would want to deport those it considers terrorists to another country?
The whole approach to tackling this issue has been to focus on the Muslim community and not the criminals or their motives. From proposing to close down Masajids to appointing ‘Government’ approved Imams. All this we fear is just a smokescreen to the wider battle against the ‘evil ideology’ vis-à-vis Islam. Are we being asked to change our religion? If this claim is unfounded and not true, then the Government has failed completely to communicate with its communities. The calling of the numerous meetings and the promise of discussion, consultation and taking on board wider issues have been completely broken.
The central issues that were being raised by the Muslim communities at various levels of the Government of, Islamophobia, socio-economic deprivation, educational infrastructure support, engagement with the Muslim youth (see funding cessation of YMO UK), media disparagement of Islam and Muslims, disproportionate use of police powers, amongst others have not been acknowledged let alone put right. There is no mention, let alone funding of the many good works such as the production of Imams born and educated in the UK.
The media have played a heavy in role in the perception that can only be termed as fomenting hatred of Islam and the Muslim community. Yet we will be very hard pushed to find any Government response in curtailing this phenomena. This issue again has been raised many times, yet the government have failed to do anything about it. The fact that there is no independent body to oversee the media is an omission of the Government’s key duty of building and maintaining a healthy, vibrant, inclusive and diverse society.
The fact that some of the media have already convicted the suspects of the 21 July incident is given credence by the concern shown by Liberty in its representation to the Attorney General. It mentioned four primary concerns, 1. Faces that are being constantly shown of the suspects and the running commentary that is given regarding what they are alleged to have done. 2. The interchanging of the words ‘Bombers’ and ‘Alleged Bombers’ creating an impression that these men are already guilty. 3. The constant interviews and background information of the suspects is again creating an impression of guilt, and 4. Admission from one of the suspects, which had been leaked to the Italian press and the linking of that to the suspects held in the UK by the press is further creating a perception of guilt. The suspect in Italy has already claimed that he would not receive a fair trial in the UK. All this, and yet the government does absolutely nothing to curtail this Islamophobia and potential contempt of court.
As a community we cannot allow the terrorists to win, but it seems our Government is doing just that. Changing the ‘rules of the game’ arbitrarily does not befit a democratic leader. Gagging peoples right to highlight and campaign against injustices whether here or abroad will only further go to reinforce the belief that the Government operates double standards and does not view injustices in a fair and honest way.
This is not a victim mentality but an expose of reality at the grassroots. And if you believe it is victim mentality then help the community to exercise their demons, like the black community have through the Scarman inquiry. Until the Government acknowledges the core issues – one cannot see any good, productive and workable approach from all these activities that has sent many Civil Servants in to overt-time madness.
I believe we can succeed – I have heard and listened to so many Muslims (young and old) stating that they want to help and they want to reclaim Islam from those tiny minority of extremists embroiled in criminality. They want their country to be safe, just and a peaceful place. What they don’t want is to help anyone who seeks to criminalize an entire community, just so that we can be seen to be doing something.