Pakistan Daily : How to Tell I'm Not a Terrorist

Saturday, April 25, 2009

How to Tell I'm Not a Terrorist

April 25, 2009

So it turns out that the 12 Muslims arrested two weeks ago - you know, the ones who, according to ­Gordon Brown, were planning a "very big terrorist plot" - were ­doing nothing of the sort. The ­arrests and subsequent release highlight how, in a time of heightened concern, anyone who is male and Muslim - and, even worse, happens to have ­Pakistani heritage - can get mistaken for a potential terrorist. It isn't just the police who have a problem telling the difference. The trouble is that it isn't obvious who is a benign, peace-loving Briton who happens to be Muslim, and who is a rage-filled Islamist intent on causing mayhem.

It used to be simple to spot the fundamentalist: they would have tell-tale signs such as metal hooks and carry a charred copy of The Satanic Verses or a "Death to Israel" placard. It isn't so easy now. What does a moderate Muslim look like? How to tell if a bearded neighbour is a pious believer or plotting to blow up the local shopping centre? How to distinguish between the student who is taking photographs to send to relatives and the jihadist on reconnaissance?

If only these were theoretical dilemmas. Last week I was detained at JFK airport in New York. At the end of a lengthy grilling the officer turned to his colleague and said: "We have a 37-year-old male who has been to Pakistan in the past three years - shall I deport him?" The fact that the Pakistan trip was for a Radio 4 documentary, or that I had written a book which devoted a chapter to my fascination with the US was irrelevant. I was Pakistan-born and had a funny name so I was suspicious. It isn't that I don't understand the concern, or that some of it isn't legitimate; I wish I knew what I should say next time to prove I don't want to blow anyone up, and just want to spend a few days visiting galleries.

British Muslims are constantly called upon to denounce the extremists, to distance themselves from their ideas and actions. This leaves them forever on the defensive, having to react to the actions of the militant minority. So perhaps it's time to get proactive. That in itself is controversial: the standard response from British Muslims is to say that they shouldn't have to apologise for the actions of the extremists, that those Islamists are as Muslim as the KKK are Christian. But that theory doesn't help much in practice.

So here are a few suggestions for how to help the police, airport immigration and anyone else who finds it hard to differentiate between liberal and extremist Muslims. All Muslims who consider themselves liberal and tolerant could apply for a special card which when presented would show the holder was a "pre-approved Muslim", thus saving time at airports. Sure, some may say that such a card would represent a gross violation of human rights but I think it could be marketed like a credit card: membership has its privileges - in this case not being indiscriminately arrested or held up when travelling. Those who feel uncomfortable carrying a card could be offered an alternative - a white girlfriend perhaps, someone to vouch for the fact that they have successfully ­integrated into society and have no immediate plans for a holy war.

Perhaps I could carry a sandwichboard with the slogan "I Love John Stuart Mill". That may prove too subtle, maybe something more permanent is needed to convince the sceptics. How about all moderate Muslims having "Don't panic - I'm Islamic" inked on their forearms by a government-approved tattoo artist. That way, the next time extremists march in Luton against returning British soldiers, the moderate Muslims would only have to walk around in a T-shirt and everyone could breathe easy ­knowing they were not the bad guys.

There is one other possibility: that Muslims are presumed innocent, unless there is evidence to the contrary. S M

The Nation (Pakistan) : MCB for review of anti-terrorism legislation

Saturday, April 25, 2009

MCB for review of anti-terrorism legislation

By Asif Mehmood | April 25, 2009

LONDON - The Muslim Council of Britain has written to Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of Britain’s counter terrorism legislation, commending his initiative to launch an inquiry into ‘Operation Pathway’.

The resentment and anger caused by this particular case of 12 innocent men’s detention and trial by media should not be underestimated, but the MCB’s is particularly concerned that this is not an isolated case and incidents damaging to community relations are being repeated, with the lessons not being learned.

Dr Bari, MCB Secretary General in the letter said: “While the media coverage may bring kudos in high circles, it is Muslims in Britain who bear the consequences. It is they who are emerging as the ‘suspect community’ and who are viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. The reports are exploited by the extreme right wing and fascists. Each time there are tabloid headlines demonising Muslims, verbal and physical attacks follow. There is a real human price being paid”.

In the letter, the MCB which is an umbrella body of some 500 mosques, charities and schools in the UK also urges Lord Carlile to critique the ‘intelligence gathering’ aspects of counter-terrorism.

Operation Pathway it is believed, involved members of the public who had “undergone a crash course in surveillance techniques”. Affiliates of the MCB have confirmed the climate of snooping. Are not the authorities mindful of the breakdown of trust and the impact on matters of ordinary civil policing? The MCB also hoped that his inquiry would analyse the flawed nature of recent anti-terrorism legislation, such as the reduction in the burden of proof and the provision for blanket stop and search powers.

Guardian : Letters: Trial by media for Pakistani students facing deportation

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Letters: Trial by media for Pakistani students facing deportation

April 25, 2009


After days of slurs and speculation and a fair number of government media interviews, no charges have been brought against any of the men arrested in Liverpool and Manchester on suspicion of ... well, who knows quite what? Being seen in or near shopping centres and nightclubs while Pakistani? We have been told that international student visas have been subject to abuse, that universities need to do more and that the whole system needs to be tightened up. Now the arrested men are facing deportation on the grounds of "national security" (Lord Carlile calls inquiry into terror bomb plot raids, 23 April). I take it this means their immigration status has been in order.

This year the government has tried to force colleges and universities to become another arm of immigration control. We are being asked to snoop on students or lose our ability to recruit internationally because the Home Office will take away our "licence". They should stop worrying. When the rest of the world realises how dangerous Britain has become for its young people, they won't want to come here to study any more anyway. So much for our place in the knowledge economy.

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya


Once again the lynch mob is out. Trial by media, not only of the 10 hapless Pakistani students but the Pakistani nation, maligned again. From the prime minister, the home secretary and every politician and his dog, the cries of TERRORIST resound in the corridors of Whitehall. Not only did Gordon Brown join in pronouncing the guilty verdict hours after the arrests, the Pakistan ambassador called for more to be done to keep such people out! New laws have already been drafted to ensure that the Pakistani student, starved of quality education at home, is kept at bay, possibly reflecting on other outlets for his intellect.

This kind of trigger-happy reaction from the security forces and wailing of politicians is fodder for the real terrorists. And the Pakistani community, once the workhorse of British industry, a peace-loving, timid people, now cowering in corners, castigated by the media and even the friendly neighbour who no longer hangs over the fence to talk about a curry. Where do they go to seek refuge? What are the risks such policies can instigate? Some food for thought for the home secretary and the prime minister.

Arshad Chaudhry
Chairman, Pakistan Forward


Why do the media refer to Lord Carlile as the "independent reviewer of terrorism legislation"? Carlile, a QC, parliamentarian and former MP, is the government-appointed reviewer of such law. So why not refer to him in those terms?

John Elder
Devauden, Monmouthshire