Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Driving Islam underground

Attacking ordinary Muslims has become the relentless pastime of a government and media that have lost their purpose. Be it the banning of Islam4UK as a group allegedly sympathising with terrorism, the French hullaballoo about fining women who want to cover their faces or the Swiss ban on minarets (with its leading campaigner since having converted to Islam!), they are all attempts by desperate governments and corrupt self-serving politicians to channel the anger at their own mismanagement into a different direction, hoping that their popularity might recover from its current depths by beating a scapegoat. And the media lap it up as it makes for cheap programme thrillers without requiring much original research or investigative journalism.

The BBC has just sunk to its lowest with a poorly scripted, badly presented and amateurishly filmed series called "Generation Jihad" in which John Taylor wants to scare viewers into believing that a whole generation of British-born Muslims are being radicalised and either ponder about carrying out a terror attack on their neighbours or at least admire those who do. His whole first episode, shot low-budget at a barber's, a meat shop and a basketball court, centres around two Muslims, Rizwan Ditta and Bilal Mohammed, who were convicted under the UK's draconian anti-terror laws for possessing material likely to be of use to terrorists. Similar charges have been brought against scores of young Muslims in their teens and twens, for a trivial a crime as possessing a copy of "The anarchist's cookbook", ab book in wide circulation since the days of the Vietnam war. It actually carries an ISBN number. Maybe it is unreliable sources like this that explain why the explosives produced by the "shoe bomber" or the "underwear bomber" quickly disappeared in an embarrassing flash?

Since Taylor broadcast some of this material likely to be of such valuable use to would-be terrorists, he should be arrested and imprisoned for at least 20 years, not just the 2 years those poor souls interviewed by him served, in order to save the British licence payer (you have to pay for the BBC if you own equipment capable of receiving a TV broadcast, irrespective of whether you watch it or not, and can go to prison if you don't comply) further shaky out-of focus shots giving the impression that in order to qualify as a cameraman for the BBC it is now sufficient to simply be able to point the lens of the camera at least somewhere in the right direction. Taylor's excuse would probably be that the material was in the public domain anyway, the same reason why Mohammad Atif Siddique had just had his conviction overturned. Unfortunately for Yorkshiremen Rizwan Ditta and Bilal Mohammed they had pleaded guilty, probably to reduce their sentence or to ward of an extradition to the USA, an infinitely worse evil than spending a couple of years in a British prison.

The lack of convictions for real terrorist offences has led the police and security services to charge and convict Muslim individuals for thought crimes in order to justify the huge sums spent on counter-terrorism measures. But the criminalisation of the innocent goes a lot further. Since the "underwear bomber" Umar Faruk Abdulmuttalab once attended University College London and was elected president of the Islamic Society there during 2006 and 2007, the counter-terrorism command of the Metropolitan Police obtained the membership records of Islamic Society members for the years 2006 - 2009 together with those of the Islamic Medical Society from the Students Union who put up little resistance against the request. Those members' data will be held on file for seven years to come and shared with foreign security services, although there is not a shred of evidence that they were involved in anything but legitimate student activities. Neither the BBC nor any other mainstream media found the story worth reporting, which was only covered as headline item by the Muslim News.

Yet, the ramifications are immense and deal another blow to freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of action in the UK. The UK already has the most surveillance cameras per individual, it's stop-and-search police powers have recently found to be illegal by the European Court of Human Rights, a British appeal court just censored the British government from hiding its knowledge of complicity in torture under the spurious excuse of national security, and the UK also has the strictest gagging laws in the Western world, matching, if not exceeding, those available in China it regularly criticises: Newspapers are frequently issued with orders not to report a specific event, even a parliamentary question, and are then even prevented from disclosing that such an order was served on them. No wonder investigative journalism is a dying art in the UK and the media go for the safe pastime of Muslim-bashing. For Muslims it means, retreat into the ghetto or get picked on, and if you want to get involved in any activity at all, keep it stumm.

Gone are decades of work trying to bring Muslim aspirations into the mainstream environment, get Muslims to identify as British citizens or even feel proud of their and their country's achievements. After fledgling attempts of getting involved in society and politics, British Muslims are back retreating into their own unformalised networks. More like "Generation under Siege" than "Generation Jihad".

What would be worth investigating by the BBC, if they still prided themselves for original work, would be the tactics used by the security services and the police in radicalising young Muslims themselves in order to justify the fight against them. Just like minors are being sent into shops to buy cigarettes or alcohol, watched by adult handlers, who then bring charges against the shop keepers, our security services actively promote the expression of radical Islamic views in order to then bring a successful prosecution. Umar Abdulmuttalab was, upon the available evidence, also actively recruited and handled by the security services.