I spy with my many eyes…

Posted on 15 April, 2013


One Nation Under CCTV by Banksy. Image by oogiboig/Wikimedia.

Image by Hustvedt/Wikimedia.

Image by Hustvedt/Wikimedia.

Two years ago Goldsmiths’ student union was visited by two officials from the British government’s Prevent Strategy. One official was from the local council; the other from a local police station. EastLondonLines reported ‘[Officials] handed over a document with advice on how to spot a potentially vulnerable student. They were told to look out for those exhibiting: “anger at foreign policy; depression or estrangement from their families.” Information should then be passed on to Prevent who would: “assemble a panel to look into it”. The targeted student would not at this stage be informed. The officials also offered financial incentives but ‘want student union staff to report students.’

The Prevent Strategy has been described as “turn[ing] community, religious and voluntary groups into information or intelligence providers” and Liberty’s Shami Chakrabati described it as “the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times.”

Goldsmiths’ student union ultimately rejected the approach and alerted the media, and the Guardian has reported on approaches made to other institutions and groups up and down the country and which didn’t attract much or any media attention at all. Journalist and film maker Roshan Salih went a step further and produced an informative and must-watch documentary about spying on Muslims in Britain:

Muslim individuals are approached or pressured to spy on fellow Muslims, as shown in Salih’s documentary, but it doesn’t stop there. Even a Muslim Member of Parliament, Khalid Mahmood, wants local authorities to reinstall cameras to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham after they were taken down because of considerable opposition after it was revealed the cameras were used to spy on the community. The Prevent Strategy once funded the Quilliam Foundation who, like Khalid Mahmood, support spying on Muslims and whose founder, Ed Husain, said that spying on Muslims was “the morally right thing to do”. Husain’s comments don’t differ much from the comments made by Islamophobe Martin Amis who suggests “the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order”.

Muslims in Britain today have to contend with Islamophobia, surveillance and being undermined by people within their own communities. Khalid Mahmood and Ed Husain both identify as Muslims but are doing their utmost to hurt Muslims in Britain. Both absolve Britain’s foreign policy of all blame despite 7/7 perpetrators citing it (unjustifiably) as the reason for their actions. And here is Khalid Mahmood, alongside Charles Moore from the insidious Policy Exchange (Khalid Mahmood is also an Advisory Council member of the Islamophobic Henry Jackson Society), defending Tony Blair’s illegal invasion of Iraq.

One of the Prevent Strategy’s aims is to monitor and clamp down on those that express anger at foreign policy. In sinister fashion the Strategy seeks to blame Muslims and ideology instead of foreign policy for any terror activity, because blaming Muslims and ideology serves to fuel and prolong the ongoing ‘War on Terror’.

Universities in Britain are pressured to ban ‘inappropriate’ speakers in a move that undermines free speech and university Islamic Societies. City University in London banned Friday prayers on its campus after the Islamic Society refused City University’s demand to let it vet in advance the content of Friday sermons – much like despotic Arab rulers do across the Arab world. The fact that Friday prayers were open to everybody to attend, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike were welcome, did not appease City University who went ahead and banned Friday prayers.

A recent fundraising event hosted by Helping Households Under Great Stress (HHUGS) was at risk of being cancelled after officials from the Prevent Strategy contacted the venue in an attempt to pressure them to cancel the event after ‘concerns’ were raised about some of the event’s speakers. Mizan’s Blog highlights another case of Prevent interfering in another event: “This is exactly the same thing that happened to CagePrisoners last year when the PREVENT department tried to close down their ‘Caged in the USA’ event.”

This tactic is also used by other right-wing organisations to pressure venues into cancelling events organised by Muslims and Muslim groups across the country.

This is not the first time that HHUGS have faced problems. Only last year their bank account was closed with very little notice and with no reason offered whatsoever. Other Islamic charities in Britain have also experienced the same problem and one can be confident it won’t be the last time either.

Police and security forces stop at nothing and do as they please. Police have used the identities of dead children to infiltrate groups and organisations, officers befriend Muslims or have pretended to convert to Islam to entrap Muslims and some undercover police officers have even formed relationships and fathered children with women they were monitoring.

One Nation Under CCTV by Banksy. Image by oogiboig/Wikimedia.

One Nation Under CCTV by Banksy. Image by oogiboig/Wikimedia.

The apathy expressed by most Muslims in Britain today makes it easier for the police and security services to target British Muslims unfairly. Unless British Muslims start speaking up and asserting themselves they will forever remain marginalised, undermined and, ultimately, under suspicion.

Originally published at MPACUK

Posted in: Current Affairs