If the new anti-terror bill proposed by Theresa May becomes legislation, it will move Britain towards a police state, writes Abu Maryam.
Mass hysteria has reared its ugly head many times over the course of history. Hitler worked enough people into a frenzy to justify the mass murder of Jews. Nelson Mandela, known by all as peaceful, was unlawfully detained for decades because a few white racists felt threatened by him.
You would hope that people would learn a lesson from past mistakes, but that does not appear to be the case and it would appear that history is repeating itself with Theresa May’s new proposals.
Enter Senator Joseph McCarthy from whom the term ‘McCarthyism’ originates. McCarthyism is “the practice of making accusations of subversion or treason without proper regard for evidence”. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.”
By the time McCarthy won a Senate seat in 1946, World War II was over and the Cold War was starting up between the Soviet Union and America. Communist governments had gained power in a number of different areas in the world. Although the issue of Soviet espionage went as far back as 1945 in America, events in 1949 and 1950 sharply increased the sense of threat of Communism in America. This was because the Soviet Union had tested an atomic bomb in 1949 whilst in 1950, Mao Zedong’s Communist army gained control of mainland China.
There was therefore an increased and heightened fear of a Soviet attack, much like there is a heightened perceived fear of an alleged attack by Muslims in Britain today, particularly from those who have travelled to Syria. McCarthy took advantage of the mounting fear and because it was not illegal to be a communist in America at the time, he started to change the rules to charge people with the act of ‘subversion’ – the systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working from within. Accordingly, lawmakers decided to prevent the spread of communism to America by enforcing old laws such as the Sedition Act 1918 and the Espionage Act 1917.
This resulted in thousands of Americans being accused of being communists or communist sympathisers and becoming the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person’s real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment. Under Theresa May’s witch-hunt, the terms ‘Communism’ and ‘Communist’ have been replaced with the ill-conceived terms of ‘Islamism’ and ‘Islamist’.
The names of many people and suspects were released publicly, resulting in defamation of character and guilt by association. Careers and reputations were irreversibly damaged. And when all was said and done, there were no convictions for subversion much like the cases of hundreds such as Moazzam Begg, who was incarcerated at the direction of Theresa only later to be released with the simple swipe of a pen and all charges dropped.
McCarthy started his brutal crackdown by producing a piece of paper which he claimed contained a list of 205 known Communists working within America which he had made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party.  Again, this is not too dissimilar to the tactics deployed by Theresa May who has been speaking about the numbers of “extremist” speakers for a number of years now, relying on information from her army of supporters, the Henry Jackson Society and other similar abhorrent right-wing neocon groups and organisations who make a lucrative living off painting people they do not like as “extremists”.
Make no mistake that Theresa May has been reading McCarthy’s guide on how to create a police state, the similarities are too startling to think otherwise. Like McCarthy, May too is claiming that the new Counter Terrorism and Security Bill is needed to prevent terrorism in the UK just as McCarthy had said about preventing communism. This is despite the fact that this piece of legislation will be the 7th of its kind since 2000.
This new Bill will allow the State to seize passports of those suspected of travelling for the purposes of terrorism. In addition, in what is a complete tear out from McCarthy’s manual, the state will be allowed to impose a temporary exclusion order which is reminiscent of a law passed by McCarthy in 1952, the Immigration and Nationality, or McCarran-Walter Act 1952. This law allowed the government to deport immigrants, or naturalised citizens “engaged in subversive activities”, and also to bar suspected subversives from entering the United States.
Theresa’s exclusion order will have the effect of preventing a Muslim British citizen from returning to the UK when abroad on ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the person had engaged in terrorist-related activity whilst abroad. It is easy to see how such a provision can easily be abused with mere exaggerated accusations being sufficient for excluding a person from returning to their home. Put simply, a person may go on holiday to anywhere in the Muslim world, or they may go for Umrah or Hajj and suddenly find that for at least a period of 2 years, they are not allowed to return to their country. And if the person is permitted to return, it will be on certain conditions, most notably, it will be directed to them where in the UK they may return to. This is effectively restricting a person’s freedom of movement, again simply based on “reasonable suspicion” where concrete evidence is not necessary.
Sadly, it does not end there as the person may also be subject to TPIM orders where they would need to regularly sign in at police stations, report their place of residence, daily movements, and so on.
Perhaps the most far reaching provision within the Bill is to make PREVENT policy statutory which will make it a legal duty for public and private bodies to ‘prevent’ terrorism by reporting signs of extremism – that is to say that all the points noted in CAGE’s Cradle to the Grave Report will become a legal requirement. This is indeed a worrying proposition and it is effectively creating a nation of “spot terrorists”. Each local authority will be required to set up a Panel of people (just like McCarthy had done as seen above), with the function of assessing the extent to which identified individuals are ‘vulnerable’ to being drawn into terrorism. It is made clear further within the Bill that where the Panel determines that an individual should not be given support under any individual support plan, they may be referred to the health or social services.
Cutting through all the gibberish, you can quite clearly see how Muslim children can and will be taken into care and away from their parents where there is mere “reasonable suspicion” that the child is “vulnerable to extremism”. Of course the terms ‘reasonable suspicion’ and ‘vulnerable’ are not defined anywhere in the Bill so this means you leave it to people to simply make up what they consider as vulnerable. For example, if a father who regularly attends the Mosque, attends the morning prayer in congregation which evidences his commitment to his faith, is he likely to be more likely to expose his children to radical and/or extreme thoughts and, thereby, do those children become vulnerable? I think you can begin to understand the absurdity of this Bill and the power it enshrines. In fact, there are already reports that in East London a 7 year old boy was referred to the social services because he did not wish to sit next to a girl for the reason that “you are not a proper Muslim because your mum does not wear a scarf” – is this really more serious than some of the names children call each other in schools across the country? Will racist comments in schools be reported in the same way? Clearly not!
Similarly, legalising PREVENT will mean that Universities will, for example, be required to take steps to ban suspected extremist speakers, failure to do so will allow ministers to intervene and force the University to take action. Again, the opportunity for abuse is abundantly clear because there is no way of determining what “extremist” means as surprise, surprise; it has not been defined in the Bill. In fact this is a matter which Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police has referred to recently when he said that Britain was drifting towards a police state. In the context of the Bill, he spoke of his concern that the police might be forced to adopt the role of “thought police” in the fight against extremism. He further said: “If these issues [defining extremism] are left to securocrats then there is a danger of a drift to a police state”.
David Anderson QC who has been appointed by the government to be its independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has expressed his concerns, in particular, he makes the point that many who travelled to Syria did not do so with bad intentions and did not know what they were getting themselves into and says “do you want to throw the book at them straight away in terms of arrests and charge?.. Perhaps there may be a more sensible way of dealing with them”. Mr Anderson also raises concern that the Courts do not appear to be involved when he said “One will want to look very carefully to see if this is a power that requires the intervention of the court at any stage, or whether it’s simply envisaged as something the home secretary imposes”. In essence, it would seem that Theresa is simply giving herself more powers to be judge, jury and executioner given that much of the reasons for any decision will be behind closed doors. It is no wonder why this government is seeking to do away with the Human Rights Act 1998.
Theresa already enjoys wide powers which are unchecked even without the passing of the Bill. We have recently seen how Theresa May cancelled a family’s (father and two sons) British citizenship and exiled them after their daughter went to Syria. This is nothing other than ‘Collective
Punishment’, which is a form of retaliation whereby a suspected perpetrator’s family members, friends, acquaintances, sect, neighbours or entire ethnic group is targeted. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions as is the case here. Where have we seen collective punishment before in history? During the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany, the Germans applied collective responsibility: in Poland, any kind of help given to a person of Jewish faith or origin was punishable by death, and that, not only for the rescuer but also for his/her entire family. Where else have we seen it? The British used collective punishment as an official policy to suppress the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in 1952, whilst in North Korea, political prisoners are sent to the Kwan-li-so concentration camps along with their relatives without any fair trial.  Of course, we all know that Zionist Israel are specialists in the concept of collective punishment, which is of a particular manifestation which is specifically prohibited in the Geneva Convention.
It is therefore incumbent on everyone to ensure that this Bill does not become law lest we end up living in a totalitarian and police state. Ultimately, McCarthy is remembered for his crusades against communism but mostly for violating the liberties of many innocent people and is considered as a reckless bully who used whatever means necessary to obtain the information he wanted. One of his detractors, President Truman once said: “In a free country, we punish men for the crimes they commit, but never for the opinions they have”.
In 1995, Senator Susan Collins said, “We hope that the excesses of McCarthyism will serve as a cautionary tale for future generations”, however, it would seem that if the Bill is passed, which all but seems a formality, then future generations will mark this as a watershed moment when Theresa May became Theresa MayCarthy.