Prime TargetRecently, I’ve been reading and listening to some of the profiling of potential terrorists in the UK and Europe, taking on board statements made by the British Home Office, plus a recent article written by the neo-Orientalist academic Oliver Roy. On the basis of the information available to me so far, I am starting to get a little paranoid. Are the British Security Services monitoring my activities? Or do these profiles cast such a wide net that suspicion must inevitable fall on more people than it is ever possible to police?
First of all, I’m obviously a suspect by dint of the fact I am Muslim. That accounts for around 1.59 million people in the UK today. Mind you, don’t think the government can’t keep an eye on all that lot. Today, a minister boldly proclaimed that police would be targeting Muslims for stop and search on the street, above and beyond any other group.
I’m still trying to figure out how that differs from searching black people ‘because they come from a violent culture’ or Irish ‘because the IRA are Irish’. No doubt, racists will be similarly targeting us for a good kicking now their style of thinking has official government approval.
How is this policy going to work, anyway? Will a cheerful bobby greet suspects with, ‘as-salaamu alaykum’ and see what kind of response they get? Or will women in hijabs and bearded men be singled out for intrusive body searches? That should be fun – imagine some 20-something copper trying to pat down a first generation Bangladeshi granny! The poor sod will get beaten senseless! Most likely, ‘Asians’ will face the closest scrutiny, but that’s pretty ineffectual policing, given that a quarter of British Muslims are not Asian. And in prime target London, that fraction is far higher.
I am a suspect, it seems, because potential terrorists are well educated, despite being blood curdling mindless fanatics. The trouble is, 15% of Muslims aged 15-30 in the UK have a degree, and given that the Muslim population here is younger than any other religious group, that must be rather a lot of people. Presumably Muslim degree certificates are now automatically copied and sent to MI5 headquarters. Converts are another group frequently mentioned in profile. That includes me again – plus most of the 64 000 other white British Muslims, not to mention the Afro-Caribbeans converts the police won’t notice because they’re not Asian.
Converts would seem to be a particular target for profilers for another reason. According to the best research on this group, most tend to embrace Islam partly as a result of disillusionment with mainstream non-Muslim culture. In short, they think British society stinks, but then quite a few non-Muslims hold that view. Nevertheless, this is one of the most frequently reoccurring themes in terrorist profiles – a dislike of the West, which apparently tends to express itself in radical Muslims as a desire to re-establish the Caliphate.
Just on the number of Salafi and Wahhabi Muslims I have heard express this view, this would seem to include rather more Muslims than any spook agency could ever hope to keep an eye on. Do these people have any idea what they are talking about?
Looking at Roy’s respected monograph alone, I am certainly worried. According to this scholar’s analysis, the political perspective of Muslim terrorists is comparable to the European radical anti-capitalist groups of the 1970s, such as Baader-Meinhof. Now, I have no plans to blow anything up, but I certainly share the basic political perspective of these groups – I could be classed as belonging to what people like Roy like to call ‘the far left’. It’s not a label I like – I am no blind follower of Marx or Trotsky. But such is the crude political analysis that these experts like to engage in.
The problem with Roy, of course, is that he’s French and obviously only has half the story when it comes to the UK – he even claims we forbid halal slaughter, which is utter twaddle. If he had any idea what was going on here, he’d know several leading British Muslim groups have links to the far-left as a result of the anti-war movement, particularly MPACUK - apparently one of Britain’s fasting growing political groups.
So perhaps I can relax in the happy knowledge that rubbish thinking rather than reason is informing this profiling, even among the so-called intellectuals. Or should I be scared because politicians might believe this claptrap? Or just confused?
I have to confess, my wife is more worried than I am. She is scared of the security forces smashing down our front door at 6am – it’s one of their favourite tactics, but it does get the neighbours talking .Thankfully, the Prevention of Terrorist Bill currently being rushed through parliament will mean I no longer have to fear for my porch decor. Once this bill is law, the police can simply knock nicely and tell me not to leave my house ever again. And if the bill stays as it is, that order will come directly from the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke.
The prospect of having me gagged in my own home must be rather tempting to Charley boy. Since 2001, I have lost count of the abrasive, satirical letters I have sent to members of the cabinet, lampooning them for their policy of near-random arrests of men with long beards, their automaton-like support for US foreign policy, their participation in the mass murder of half a million Iraqi children, and their numerous other crimes against fundamental principles of justice and humanity.
I’m sure my name must be scrawled on meglomaniac Tony’s toilet walls, next to some very rude words. There’s nothing like free speech, is there?
And indeed, in Britain today, there is nothing like it. There’s little serious opposition to Blair’s presidential dictatorship in parliament and precious few voices raised against him in the largely right-wing media the Labour party constantly pander to with their racist rhetoric on asylum seekers and migrant workers.
How long, then, before this government decide to go the whole hog and use this new law to silence what little, radical dissent still remains?