Taking Liberties

First of all, here are possibly the most chilling words to come from the mouth of a British Prime Minister since… well, probably something else Tony Blair said a few weeks ago. It’s lucky we’re getting rid of this fool before he buys a brand new set of jackboots.

We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong.

Yep, you read it right. Putting civil liberties first is misguided and wrong, according to an opinion piece Blair wrote in last weekend’s Sunday Times. And in case you didn’t get the point first time around, he restates it a couple of paragraphs later:

Their (suspects’) right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment.

Fascist opinion pieces by outgoing leaders are scary enough, but what’s more scary to me is the way that Blair’s philosophy is already being put into practice by bobbies on the beat. Here’s one recent example: Salam Abdulrahman, a man of Iraqi descent, was arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for taking photos of London landmarks while possessing brown skin. (Well, technically the last part was not included in the rap sheet, but what else can one conclude? How many white people get thrown in jail for photographing Tower Bridge?) Here’s what he was arrested for, according to Abdulrahman anyway:

Possessing a book called Future Jihad, Terrorist Strategies Against The West by Walid Phares, possessing a press ID, using the term Al Qaida in my emails and essays, visiting a number of places in Britain, taking photos of Tower Bridge which show the structure of the bridge, and having pictures of military people.

Now regular readers will know I don’t swear very much on this blog, so please indulge me just this once.
Thank you.
Now, where to start?
  1. Possessing a book, no matter how “suspect” the title, is not a crime. I own the works of Osama bin Laden, not because I want to emulate him but because if he’s going around the world blowing things up I’d quite like to know why.
  2. Being a journalist is not a crime. I’m a journalist, and never have I been told that possessing a press ID is grounds for arrest.
  3. Using the term Al Qaida is not a crime. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it. Tony Blair does it often enough, maybe someone could arrest him.
  4. Visiting a number of places in Britain is not a crime. I just don’t know what to say about this one.
  5. Taking photos of Tower Bridge which show the structure of the bridge is not a crime. Taking photos which do not show the structure of the bridge would be quite a feat.
  6. Having pictures of military people is not a crime. Should I hide the photo of my late grandfather in his RAF uniform, just in case an overzealous cop kicks my door in one day?

Now I should point out that all these reasons for the arrest come from Abdulrahman himself. Perhaps the police do have some devastating evidence against him that he doesn’t mention. Perhaps under the Freedom of Information Act I could find out, if the government wasn’t trying to gut that as well.

But if the reasons for his arrest are true, then I am guilty on every single count. Hmm. Should I notify MI5? Perhaps not. Because of course, it really doesn’t matter if I share 6 or 100 harmless habits with Salam Abdulrahman. When it comes down to it, I’m white and he’s not. I could never be a terrorist; he is presumed to be one unless he can prove otherwise. Notice the emphasis in Blair’s statements on “foreign nationals.” He doesn’t say it, but we all know which “foreign nationals” he’s referring to. French tourists and Swedish au pairs have nothing to fear from the British police; Iraqi and Syrian men, on the other hand, had better not take any photos or mention “A_ Q___” if they don’t want to spend the night in jail for the sake of keeping “us” safe.

Finally, I should make another confession: as well as apparently being a potential terrorist, I am also a thief: I stole both the title for this blog post and the picture from an excellent-sounding new film about Tony Blair’s destruction of civil liberties. I plan to go and see it, if I can find a cinema screen in London that isn’t taken up with Pirates of the Caribbean 3.

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There are 3 comments

  1. Assalamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullah
    I pray that you are in the best of health & imaan.
    This is a short message to notify you that this entry has been selected for publishing on I J T E M A; a venture to highlight the best of the Muslim blogosphere.
    To find out more about I J T E M A, and how you can further contribute, please click here.
    May God bless you for your noble efforts.

  2. Crikey.
    You swore.
    You’re a thief.
    You’re a terrorist.
    And look – other terrorists like what you’re writing.
    What a bad, bad person you must be. I’m surprised they haven’t locked you up yet.

    Another excellent, if disturbing, post.

    Hope you’re well.

  3. Uh-Oh, I think I’m in trouble. I have super brown skin, I have pictures of military personnel in my home (my uncle and a cousin fought in America’s Korean and Vietnam wars). I just lead a photography class through London where we took pictures of among other things famous buildings and bridges, I too have used the words Al Qaeda, I have a book on American terrorism (does that count?) and I am a foreign national. I guess I am really lucky I don’t have a press pass, aren’t I?

    This is such a ridiculous story, it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around. I am so sad for this young man who seemed to have had a bright future ahead of him, now possibly ruined by stupidity.

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