Police have been called in to investigate the claims of torture by Binyam Mohamed and determine whether any MI5 officer was complicit in the torture. This is entirely appropriate and as I have mentioned before, there should be no place in civilised society for methods of interrogation which are not only medieval but quite simply counter productive.
The almost unbelievable attack on the bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore is further evidence of the perilous security situation in Pakistan. While it is too early to lay blame on a particular group, it seems that once again extremists determined to ensure that Pakistan descends into lawlessness giving them the opportunity to take control are to blame.
The return of Binyam Mohammed from Guantanamo has highlighted the futility of indefinite detention without trial and engaging in acts of torture to extract information. Here was a man picked up in Pakistan having gone to Afghanistan who did not provide a satisfactory explanation as to why he was there and who thereafter was accused of allegedly meeting and being involved with extremists.
Mr Mohammed’s travels and activities were suspicious but the fact that he was held without trial and tortured have ensured that his actions have become almost irrelevant. He has not been charged on his return as there was no chance of any conviction based on evidence obtained under torture. The US authorities in an almost blasé manner released him and we have a situation now where people are raising questions as to why an alleged extremist is allowed into this country. That question will never be satisfactorily answered as once a person is tortured and detained without trial, he simply cannot be charged and tried as there is no chance of having a fair.
If we assume that this man is dangerous as the US authorities have one for the past seven years, then security of this country has undoubtedly been compromised by the behaviour of US authorities, and if allegations are true by the complicity in torture of some UK intelligence personnel. If Mr Mohammed is innocent which I believe he is – if only on the presumption that everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, then he has been treated in an appallingly shabby and abusive way which does nothing to enhance the democratic cause around the world – if democracies behave like dictatorial regimes when their security is threatened, then one can only imagine how dictators respond when they are threatened. And how can we lecture others on human rights abuses when we have cases like Mr Mohammed’s?
Guantanamo is a black mark on the free world and the sooner its inmates are tried fairly or released the sooner we can claim the moral high ground in the battle against extremism.
The Guardian has details of the code from a new anti terror strategy being proposed in Government referred to as Contest 2. According to the draft anyone holding the following views would be regarded as an extremist:
• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.
• They promote Sharia law.
• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.
• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.
• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
If this is adopted and becomes policy, the Government will have 2 million Muslim extremists on its hands in this country and perhaps many non Muslims as well.
Most of the above are thought crimes and some are directly contrary to the fundamental beliefs of Islam that Muslims hold. For example, Islam says that homosexuality is a sin – and every Muslim is aware of this. But the vast majority of Muslims living in this country do not discriminate against homosexuals or treat them any differently to anyone else. If they do then legislation is in place to prosecute them.
Most Muslims happily accept that they are living in a liberal democracy and a secular society where there is no state religion which everyone has to adhere to. Most simply do not care what a person does behind closed doors in the privacy of his home and how he chooses to live his life. Muslims view homosexuality being a sin in the the same way they view other sins such as people living together as an unmarried couple or having a child out of wedlock or drinking alcohol or eating pork. Why not add these to the list of extremists beliefs as well?
If promoting Sharia is an act of an extremist then the Government should go in the dock first. It has facilitated the introduction of Sharia based financial products now readily available from mainstream banks, permitted halal meat in schools, hospitals and elsewhere, given permission for Mosques and madressas to be built, funded Muslim only organisations, allowed and funded Muslim schools etc etc etc. All Muslims are promoting Sharia Law when they worship, follow moral guidance, marry in accordance with Islamic rules, fast in Ramadan, give charity and go on pilgrimage. This list is endless and shows how little thought has been given to the definition of Sharia Law.
The failure to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan would also lead to extremism. A million people marched against the war in Iraq and there were many who saw that as a war of aggression and occupation where people had a right to self defence and refused to condemn people who they thought were fighting in self defence who subsequently killed coalition soldiers. I suspect many non Muslims would get in trouble under this category too but is non condemnation sufficient justification to make someone an extremist? And how do you police this – would there be a register which people signed to condemn the killings of our soldiers and if you didn’t you’d be an extremist? What should be an offence is any celebration of the killing of any British soldier killed anywhere in combat regardless of whether a person agrees with the political decision to go to war or engage in combat.
The craziest one of all is this definition: ‘They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.’
Jihad is a fundamental belief in Islam. A Muslim state is given permission by Islam to defend itself against an aggressor or be aggressive where it fears an imminent attack. This is similar to the Just War Theory developed in Christianity. To say that anyone who believes this is an extremist is to hold an extremist view! It would be better to say that anyone who plans and engages in violent acts of terror and kills innocent people is an extremist regardless of whether he believes that he is engaged in Jihad.
Advocating a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries is not a crime. Actively pursuing it and engaging in acts of terror to achieve this would be. Advocating a Caliphate state in the UK is an oxymoron. When the population of Muslims in a country is 7% advocating a Caliphate is a call that isn’t even worth responding to, let alone giving it such significance that it makes someone an extremist.
As mentioned here and here, the Government seems to have no idea what it is doing in its strategy in dealing with radicalisation and extremism in this country. The Contest 2 seems consistent with its previous actions.
‘It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state.’
The US has gone too far with Guantánamo and the tortures. MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect: there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification.
That is the view of Dame Stella Rimington who has rightly identified the Governments relentless march to curtail civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism as being counter productive. David Davis MP will be pleased that such a senior figure from the intelligence industry albeit retired has confirmed his concerns relating to the erosion of the hard won liberties that shape this country. To Muslims like me it has long been obvious that measures such as pre trial detention without charge do little to reduce terrorist threats, yet give radicals recruiting to their cause more reasons to highlight the alleged prejudices against Muslims in the war on terror.
As I mentioned yesterday, a cohesive and well planned strategy is desperately needed to deal with the increased radicalisation of many young Muslims living in this country which the Government seems incapable of delivering. It could start be speaking and listening to people like Dame Stella.
The Pakistani government has caved into the demands of the Pakistani Taleban (PT) and will allow Sharia Law as defined by the PT to be introduced and enforced in the Swat Valley region of Pakistan in return for the laying down of their arms by militants who have been fighting Government forces.
While Taleban interpreted Sharia Law has been in low level use in this region for many years, this is the first time the Government has given its approval and backing of its extension under the auspices of the PT and in particular Taleban hardliner Sufi Mohammed, formerly of Jamaat-e-Islami and head of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM – the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) and his son in law Maulana Fazlullah.
This is an enormously dangerous and backward step and is an acceptance that the Pakistani army has lost its battle in this region, and that the overspill from the battles in Afghanistan have had a direct impact on the decision making of the Pakistani Government. Sufi Mohammed it should be noted, arranged for thousands of his fighters to go to Afghanistan to fight coalition forces in 2001.
The Government’s decision is also evidence if any was needed that the current leadership of Pakistan simply does not have the stomach for a fight with extremists on the borders with Afghanistan and neither will they take preventative action to prevent supplies from reaching Taleban fighters in Afghanistan. It also gives the message to other groups in Pakistan, that if you fight hard and long enough, your goals will be realised.
If past actions are anything to go by, the education of all girls in the Swat region will be stopped as there are reports of 400 private schools enrolling 40,000 girls having already been shut down with ten schools for girls that tried to open after a 15 January 2009 deadline blown up by TNSM supporters. The TSNM will interpret Sharia Law how they see it – a severe and hardline version of Wahhabism, enforce and administer it, operate the courts themselves and carry out whatever punishment they deem is necessary. Pakistan has become a more dangerous and even more volatile country.