Even though aiming to identify suspicious’ individuals and prevent extremism, the counterterrorism bills introduced in Western countries present the danger of intruding into every aspect of individual lives, and focus in particular on Muslim communities. Moreover, as we have seen in several examples in the press, Western intelligence agencies are not keen on protecting ‘suspects,’ but rather seek to take advantage of those individuals
Last week we looked at the British counter-extremism bill, backed by Home Secretary Theresa May. The heated debate about this bill centers on whether it will curtail rights such as freedom of speech and whether it will target Muslims, creating an environment in which mistrust can only grow.
As part of this bill, police have been give powers to restrict "harmful" activities of people labeled "extremist." Such "harmful" activities include "a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress of creating a threat to the functioning of democracy." With such loose terms as "risk," "alarm" or "distress," this is a definition with an incredibly wide scope.
Anyone found guilty of such "harmful" activities will be banned from broadcasting, and any publication that is to be posted on the web or social media, or any speech to be made in public, will have to be submitted to the police first. Thus, the police will be given the role of censors, and censorship will be alive and thriving in the U.K.
Can a secular government police have religious beliefs? Can the police really be made responsible for the tweets and speeches to be made by people who are on the extremist list?
Many people feel that moves should be made to have open discussions of extreme ideas, thus "debunking" them to some extent. Indeed, despite the proposed ban that will be imposed on speakers deemed extreme, both Cambridge and Oxford universities are asking to be exempt. There are a couple of reasons why this is so. They state the tradition of debates at the Cambridge and Oxford Unions, giving the example of Oswald Mosely speaking at the Cambridge Union in 1960; Mosely's ideas were extreme – fascism - but the debate, although allowing Mosely to air his views, also allowed sound arguments against fascism to be publicized. In this way, the "attractions" of fascism were tarnished and debunked.
There is another implication; the Oxbridge students should be involved in debates on a variety of matters, even if the ideas are extreme. These young men and women are likely to be involved in leading the country in some way, and thus should be exposed to all types of ideas.
However, the third implication, which is more subtle (and rather disturbing), is that perhaps these successful students are too intelligent to be taken in, whereas students at less prestigious, but equally respectable, institutions may not have the nous to understand the intricacies.
The impetus behind the counter-extremism bill is that, according to the MI5, Britain is "facing an 'unprecedented' threat from hundreds of battle-hardened jihadists who have been trained in Asia, Africa and the Middle East…it warns that there are now more Britons trained in terrorism than at any point in recent memory."
One must question the numbers; it is stated that there are approximately 300 people who fall into this category. But there are no reliable sources given for this number; it is nothing more than an approximation.
And now it is time to ask some hard questions.
Dr. Qari Muhammad Asim, senior imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds had a conversation with Prime Minister David Cameron in which he stated that until the CIA started talking about al-Qaida no Muslims had ever heard of this organization. Asim is puzzled as to why this was the case, and he goes on to claim that al-Qaida can only be a product of the CIA.
Indeed, the imam states that 45 percent of Muslims agree with this idea, thinking that the U.S. and Israel have ganged up against Muslims. Asim also claims that the real perpetrators of 9/11 were Israel and the CIA and that 7/7 in London was carried out by non-Muslims in an attempt (successfully) to create and feed Islamophobia, thus creating a way to humiliate Muslims.
This makes one feel it is time to reach for the tinfoil hat. Here we go again, conspiracy theories, persecution complexes…
The claims by Western governments that the former Iraqi regime had been stockpiling weapons of mass destruction have turned out to be false. No one now would deny that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; moreover, many are convinced that the authorities who started the Gulf Wars most likely had knowledge that this was the case.
In the tragic 2013 Lee Rigby case, two British Muslim converts of Nigerian descent killed a British soldier in "retribution" for Muslim deaths. Adebowale, the younger attacker, had a history of mental health issues. Adebolajo, the elder attacker, had been arrested in Kenya for terrorist activities, but was released on the request of MI6; the British intelligence service tried to turn him to act as an "insider," providing information about terrorists. But they failed to convince him to help them out. Instead, he was free to roam Britain, where he carried out one of the most horrendous hate crimes of recent years.
Last spring, three British teenage girls managed to leave Britain, and going through Turkey, went to join the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Accusations were hurled right and left and many questions were asked. But at the end of the day, as Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu told news reporters, it was discovered that someone had aided the girls in their journey. It is only logical that three school girls would find making such a journey difficult alone, unaided. But the identity of their assistant gives pause for thought. According to Çavuşoğlu, "It turned out to be someone who works for the intelligence of a country from the coalition."
Çavuşoğlu did not say which country, but did state that it was not the EU or the United States. A European security source reported that this person was connected with the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). A Canadian government source stated that the person in question was neither a Canadian citizen nor employed by the CSIS, but did not deny the "connection" with the CSIS.
Minister Steven Blaney of the Canadian Office of Public Safety said that his office did not comment on operational matters. This cannot really be called an outright denial.
Thus, the situation in Britain is that the MI5 releases a known terrorist from foreign custody in an attempt to "turn" him. British school girls are aided in fleeing their country to join ISIS by someone from the coalition that is fighting the very group the girls are going to join.
However, reports Trevor Aaronson, an American journalist, things are no better, indeed they are worse, in the U.S. In his article on The Intercept, "The Sting," Aaronson tells us how the FBI set up Sami Osmakac to be a dangerous terrorist. The government claimed that Osmakac was a lone-wolf terrorist who was planning to bomb a bar in Tampa; he was then going to take hostages and finally blow up himself and all those around him with a suicide vest.
According to Aaronson "…if Osmakac was a terrorist, he was only one in his troubled mind and in the minds of ambitious federal agents. The government could not provide any evidence that he had connections to international terrorists. He didn't have his own weapons. He didn't even have enough money to replace the dead battery in his… 1994 Honda Accord."
Rather, we learn, that Osmakac was the target of an "elaborately orchestrated FBI sting." In this sting, a paid informant, FBI agents and others worked on setting up Osmakac for more than three months. The FBI provided him with weapons, gave him a car bomb, as well as giving him money so that he could carry out the terrorist act that he was being encouraged to perform. At one point the FBI squad supervisor described Osmakac as a "retarded fool."
Several psychiatrists and psychologists who examined Osmakac said that rather than being a retarded fool he was deeply disturbed. He was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Two of the symptoms of this disorder are hallucinations and delusions. It becomes clear that Osmakac was not a terrorist, but only became so when the FBI kitted him out with the means and opportunity, and worked to convince him that this was the right thing to do. And as someone susceptible to delusions, it was probably not very hard to convince Osmakac that being a suicide bomber was the right thing to do.
The FBI uses paid informants. In order to justify their payment the informants have to find terrorists. Aaronson claims that these informants, who are usually former criminals, target the mentally ill, guiding them and equipping them.
Aaronson tells us how since 9/11 the FBI has arrested a large number of people like Osmakac. There are a number of similar cases; in one, two New York men were given assistance with travel applications and other bureaucratic obstacles, enabling them to "plot" to travel to Syria to join ISIS. Without this assistance, they probably would not have made such a daring plan.
Aaronson claims that in nearly half of all defendants prosecuted in terrorism-related cases since 9/11 an FBI informant was involved, and more than half of these were sting operations, with nearly 50 defendants being led by an informant. And, as the informants are often former convicted criminals, one can only question the integrity of such people.
When talking about his state of mind before becoming a target of this sting, Osmakac says "I wanted to go and study religion and get married….just have nothing to do with this Western world. I wanted to study Arabic and religion in depth, hoping that Allah is gonna cure me from the evil inside….the doctors say it is not evil, it's a mental illness."
These examples, from Britain and America, are only a few that have been "discovered." It seems clear from Aaronson's article, as well as from the British school girl saga, that many people were encouraged and abetted in either becoming "terrorists" or in going to Syria to join ISIS.
Learning this, one is inclined to reconsider the imam's words quoted above, and perhaps, remove one's tinfoil hat…it seems clear that there is an attempt to transform troubled souls into terrorists, that young impressionable adults are being groomed to sinister ends. When a young person is depressed, they become suicidal. How easy it must be to convince someone who is contemplating their own life that rather than dying and going to hell, they could become a suicide bomber, and die and go to heaven! And if such activities are happening on an individual level, is it really so far-fetched to wonder if there are similar machinations on a wider basis?
At the same time, add to this the attempts to peer into every aspect of a Muslim individual's life, in order to ensure that they are not an "enemy," the emphasis on "us" and "them," the alienation of a large proportion of the population in the U.S. and the U.K., and one can only sit and wonder….where is this all headed? Not only has great damage been inflicted on any trust people had in the intelligence services, but also in their belief in rights and justice, the impartiality of the judiciary and reliance and trust in teachers and doctors.
Why are Muslims feeling under greater oppression, why are they being driven into corners only to entice them out with promises of suicide vests and car bombs? Are the two counter-extremism bills in the U.S. and the U.K. necessary? If they are necessary, was this need for them manipulated, inflated, or perhaps even created? If so, why? There are many more questions. Unfortunately, the answers are few and far between.