“Any form of terrorism is an affront to civilisation.” So said the Old Bailey judge Brian Barker in the trial of Sohail Quereshi.
Yet while Judge Barker is happy to preside over the case of the potential act of terror Sohail Qureshi may have undertaken, the real terrorists are let off scot free – the terrorists who head Anglo-American imperialism. Their daily acts of terror in the Middle East, which really are an ‘affront to civilisation’, are not brought to trial. Instead, the same people committing these attrocities are the ones that are responsible for writing the legislation. A ‘free and fair’ judicial system? Certainly not for the working class – and especially not for those members of it who happen to be muslims!
Sohail Qureshi’s is the latest high profile case of a young muslim targeted under the Terrorism Act 2006, and probably one of the most controversial. He was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison, not for committing a crime but for ‘preparing to commit’ crimes of terrorism, despite there being, according to the judge, “no specific indication of what they are or where they might be”.
His real crime in the eyes of the judicial system and the bourgeois propaganda machine was showing support for those fighting against the brutal wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A young white man who collected information on making homemade bombs, while listening to death metal and downloading information on how to handle the latest weaponry used by the British Army to wipe out small villages would not be hauled up in front of a judge on grounds of preparations for terrorism. He would be more likely to be encouraged to sign up to become cannon fodder in a campaign of terror in Iraq, Afghanistan or, potentially, Iran.
Qureshi was not tried in the interest of protecting the lives of the ordinary working people of Britain. His trial, like the trial of Samina Malik, the 23-year-old who was given a nine-month suspended sentence for ‘possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist’ and writing pro-jihadi poetry, or 21-year-old Mohammed Atif Siddique, who faces eight years in prison for possession of computer files and distributing website links, is another attempt to sow division amongst the working class in Britain. It is an attempt to place blame on communities who have connections, be they religious or cultural, with countries where terror is being perpetrated by Britain on a massive scale.
We must not fall foul of these attempts at divide and rule. Stopping Qureshi from boarding a plane, intimidating Malik, imprisoning Siddique and thus preventing him spreading website links, has not made Britain a safer place. These young people are not the cause of terror, nor are their thoughts the root of terrorism that must be stopped, as our bourgeois media would have us believe.
The root of terror lies in the imperialist plunder and warmongering. Not only is the greatest terrorism unleashed by Anglo-American imperialism; in unleashing this terrorism and oppression, it breeds resistance.
In Scotland, the attempt by the state to intimidate and stifle all criticism has gone as far as using some arcane Scottish law to charge Aamer Anwar, Mohammed Atif Siddique’s lawyer, with contempt of court for the ‘crime’ of reading a statement, following the conviction of his client, which denounced the verdict of the case and pointed out that Siddique was found guilty of “doing what millions of young people do every day, looking for answers on the internet”.
Anwar reiterated that Siddique “is not a terrorist … that it is not a crime to be a young muslim angry at global injustice”. He also correctly stated that the ‘anti-terror’ laws are an attack on civil liberties, and that, in Siddique’s case, “the prosecution was driven by the state, with no limit to the money and resources used to secure a conviction”.
It is clear that the British state is preparing to use the law as a weapon to silence any criticism of its actions, both at home and abroad. Sentencing people for ‘thought crimes’ in connection with imperialism’s wars of aggression in the Middle East is designed to intimidate the population out of support for the resistance movements in those countries being attacked. Meanwhile, branding all critics of the government as ‘supporters of terrorism’ is clearly going to come in very handy as the increasing attacks on the standard of living and freedoms of the working class in Britain itself start to bite.
So vague are the definitions, so broad the range of activities, and so minimal is the burden of proof required in relation to the charges of ‘terrorism’, ‘preparing terrorism’, etc, that records of searches made and web pages visited merely in researching this short article could be brought as ‘proof’ of ‘preparing’ or ‘supporting’ terrorism, should the state deem it necessary to make an example of the author. And no doubt our ‘free’, ‘fair’ and ‘unbiased’ bourgeois media would happily repeat and magnify all the outlandish claims made by the state propaganda machine to justify such actions. Yet there is nothing wrong in searching for information on the internet and writing about it.
We must stand united in our struggle for the emancipation of the working class and the oppressed peoples of the world and not be intimidated in our struggle against our common enemy.