Theresa May on terrorism – ramping up failed, racist policies

Theresa May has unveiled new and extended anti-terrorism measures. As an rs21 member writes, this is a continuation of policies which have failed in the Middle East and are encouraging racism here.

Photo: Home Office

Photo: Home Office

Today, in a bizarre move, Theresa May made an announcement for “Counter Terrorism Awareness Week”. My initial thoughts were, why now? It hasn’t been a particularly special week for counter terrorism, and it’s not as if the constant media over-excitement around terrorism has left anyone unsure that the government does in fact have a terrorism policy.

May’s statement today comes after the announcement in September that the UK’s terror threat level was upped to “severe”, the second-highest risk level. Now it has been announced that on 26 November the Government will reveal a new Counter Terrorism and Security Bill. The bill’s aim is to fight terrorism “on all fronts”, which essentially means tightening up the already existing terrorism legislation that exists in every part of the government. Any publicly funded organisation – such as schools, universities and councils – will have a statutory responsibility not to invite “extremist speakers.” To be clear, this will mean Muslim, political speakers. People suspected of being terrorists – before they have been charged or have had a fair trial – will be relocated to other parts of the country. This is another attack on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.”

Further, May announced that Temporary Exclusion Orders will be issued to control the return of those who go abroad, especially to Syria. The government is hardening its strategy on UK returnees. Talk of “controlling the return” does acknowledge that these people will be able to return if they want to – probably because the government have realised that making people stateless is unacceptable in international law (not that this has stopped the government before). However, this doesn’t back down on the criminalisation they will face once they have returned.

There is no acknowledgement that criminalisation of Muslims, and British foreign policy, have been a major radicalising factor in themselves. There is an alternative to this strategy, as has been seen in Denmark – a rehabilitative not criminalising approach, which acknowledges that actually listening to people who have been to Syria can be a positive in terms of policy. There is also little mention made regarding the hypocrisy and inconsistency of the policy – nothing happens to those fighting on the Kurdish side, and there is no analysis of the different groups on the ground. No acknowledgement is made of the fact that government policy has changed greatly from when they were fighting Assad themselves.

Theresa May’s reasoning for these changes? On the one hand, she says that the threat is very bad – that 40 plots have been thwarted since 7/7 in 2005, thanks to the anti-terror laws that are already in place. But on the other hand she says that it’s getting worse – so we have to toughen them up. Here we are presented with a contradiction. If the terror policies that we had thwarted 40 plots then surely they have worked. But on the other hand, if the threat is now ever greater, then surely 13 years of draconian policies have failed.

Or the answer to this contradiction could be that policy is not based on evidence, but politically driven hysteria resulting in the curtailing of civil liberties and the increased ramping up of the racist oppression of Muslims. The results of the imperialist states’ “anti terror policies” are exemplified in cases of torture, extradition and extra-judicial killings. The list is too long to mention the name of every survivor and victim of the war on terror but they include Abdel Hakim Belhadj, imprisoned in Libya and currently fighting the UK government due to their role in his rendition; Moazzam Begg, a UK citizen who was detained in Guantanamo bay without charge and then imprisoned in this country for 7 months without trial until his case was dropped; and UK resident Shaker Aamer, who has been in Guantanamo since 2002, and despite being cleared is still there.

We need to fight alongside the current campaigns for justice for these and many others affected by the war on terror. May is only continuing with policies which have already failed.

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