Sabir on Security | Police fabricated evidence against me but civil liberties concern us all
New in Ceasefire, Sabir on Security - Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2012 13:28 - 2 Comments
“We are now dangerously slipping toward a situation where the police, and law enforcement agencies in general, have too much power and where we, the public, are increasingly at the mercy of the whims of officers and agencies, rather than the impartial rule of law.”
Civil rights are meant to be a central component of a liberal democracy, which is why, prior to my wrongful arrest and false imprisonment for possessing a library book that was given the false title of ‘Al-Qaeda Training Manual’ by the US Government, I had always believed that we all had equal protection under civil rights law and statues. I was wrong.
The truth is that the new and revitalised powers, laws and offences which have been introduced since the launch of the ‘War on Terror’ are undermining the very essence of civil rights in the UK, amongst others.
The main reason for this, as I see it, is that as the state acquires more powers, the public grows less resistance and more compliant. We are now dangerously slipping toward a situation where the police, and law enforcement agencies in general, have too much power and where we, the public, are increasingly at the mercy of the whims of officers and agencies, rather than the impartial rule of law. I speak from experience.
Today, UK media, notably the Observer, is reporting the story of how police officers investigating my arrest had simply fabricated evidence in order to bolster their case against me. This is an abuse of power I would never have imagined had I not been confronted with its consequences so directly.
I believe it is important that all of us, regardless of background or political outlook, should take a serious look at the state of our civil rights. A candid examination of where we are today as a nation makes for grim viewing.
It is hardly breaking news that Muslims are prominent victims of the hardening grip of the state. What is most frightening, however, is that if you’re a member of the Muslim community, then your civil rights can be, and are being, revoked when the State decides.
My experiences and investigations have made me realise that civil rights, which are meant to be fully given to people when they are at their most vulnerable don’t mean all that much in practice, especially for Muslims who are facing allegations of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’.
Despite its seriousness, my case is nowhere near as bad as some of the others. Take the Farooqi family case in Manchester. Greater Manchester Police are exercising new anti-terror powers to seize the family home because the father was convicted of terrorism offences under somewhat questionable (and entrapping) circumstances.
The point is that abuses of Muslims (and increasingly political non-Muslims) are occurring on a daily basis yet go unnoticed. If you are not going to stand and fight today, when the Muslim (and increasingly wider) communities are being systematically and pro-actively targeted, then when will you?
Though rights are conditional, they can only be violated to the extent that you allow them to be. Since my legal settlement in 2011, for instance, my rights are no longer particularly violated or undermined anymore because 1) I know what they are and 2) I make sure anyone who intends to take them away understands that. You have to do the same, and to that effect, I’d like to highlight two important points.
Firstly, it is crucial that all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims, engage with the subject of civil rights. Rights don’t belong to any race or religion, and threats to one community are an attack on the rights of all communities. Indeed, speak to political campaigners or activists, and you will soon realise how and why these rights are under threat everywhere and for everyone. Concerned citizens and campaigners alike must make friends with everyone, regardless of colour, religion, culture or creed and realise that strength only comes through solidarity within and between communities.
Secondly, whenever the subject of civil rights is raised, the natural response I routinely hear is “what can we do”? To that effect, I’d like to suggest two key avenues for action.
First, educate yourself – Universities are only brick buildings, where you have to pay thousands of pounds to attend. Yet, you can give yourself a full education without going to a university or spending a single penny. Learning doesn’t cost anything except your time, so make time and learn about the basics of the issues before trying to change them.
Once you have a basic understanding of the issues, you will naturally learn of the best methods to affect change. Yes, change will be slow and sometimes frustratingly so, but you must pace yourself. Patience is order of the day.
Secondly, protecting our civil rights will not come cheap. We must dig deep into our pockets and start funding research, learning and legal action. There are a lot of sincere and committed people and organisations (Muslim and non-Muslims) that are trying to affect change in Britain today for everybody’s benefit. Though you might not be able to directly bring about change, by ensuring specific organisations have the financial & legal resources to do so, you will be contributing in two of the most important ways.
The same applies with research and news, and the need to ensure that those who can get access to information are being given the tools and support they so badly need. Individuals and communities must contribute to the funding of research and learning.
The government does not want us, or for that matter you, to say things as they are. The government’s official counter-terrorism strategy (CONTEST), for example, specifically makes the case that people must be made to feel and believe that everything is okay in regards to counter-terrorism efforts so they can go about their lives freely and with confidence. The truth is that people are only going about their lives freely and with confidence because they are uninformed about the realities of a nameless war that is destroying lives and devastating communities.
Innocent people have been, are being, and will continue to be locked away unjustly and have their rights violated for reasons that will only fully become clear in history book, if at all. But it doesn’t need to be so. We must remember that until we all take a firm decision to get active and get involved, this will continue to remain an issue, even if it continues to be portrayed as a marginal nuisance affecting a minority.
Let me say it again: today it might be somebody else, but tomorrow, as I have learnt the hard way, it could be you or your loved ones. It’s better to get organised now than to be caught on the hop.