Ibtihal Bsis explains how the concept of “consent” is misapplied in relation to the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, the forced imposition of “British values” on Muslims, and the importance of supporting advocacy group CAGE.
A few years ago I received a telephone call from the police when I was at the arrivals lounge in London airport. My husband had been stopped by the counter terror police- it was not the first time and it certainly was not the last. I was asked by one particular officer who knew that I was a lawyer, to advise my husband that he must give his consent to having his DNA taken; otherwise he will be effectively forced under Schedule 7.
When I refused to give that advice my husband asked the officer, why are you asking for my consent when ultimately I could be forced to hand you my DNA. Is this about making you feel better that you gave me some sort of choice some option when really there is none.
We can draw parallels with this example as Muslims living in today’s Britain. We are being asked to consent to a British way of life, to particular narratives about our way of life, but the consent is an illusion because if we don’t we could be forced, we could be forced through intimidation, humiliation, being branded extremists on a conveyor belt to terrorism, being called apologists for terrorism or worse.
But we have some questions of our own. What do you want us to consent to and what will you have us condemn? Do you want us to consent to the talk of an open and free society, why is it that this is quickly followed with words of “there is no option and there is no choice to adhering to our values.” Did you want us to consent to your address about standing up to terrorism and using every avenue possible in order to stamp it out? Why do you not apply that to Bashar Al Assad who has not burned just a few people he has burned half of Syria. Did you want us to consent to your one liner that Muslims “should do more” after the Charlie Hebdo incident that happened across a border in France, why is it that you only remember borders when we run to the charitable aid of our suffering sisters and brothers in Syria.
Why do you ask us to condemn the crimes of ISIS (who did not consult us when they committed their crimes) when you refused to condemn the crimes of Tony Blair and George Bush in Iraq, who clearly consulted you. Did you want us to condemn those extremist Muslims who have an “us and them” mentality because they expose your foreign policy but you didn’t condemn your speech writers and your ministers when they were the very people who engineered the “us and them” rhetoric by saying “we must reduce the risk presented by our enemies”.
Consent is something that someone is asked to do when giving up a right, when something unpleasant is about to happen to them. When laws are used to coerce people into agreement to protect an institution and in this case, it is the Government. When Muslims are instructed to condemn it is within a narrative that they must be guilty by association, association of belief. Because I am of the Muslim faith. We are not about to give up our right and we are not guilty by association.
As a lawyer I was always told that Justice must be blind, but now we can see that justice has a perspective. Justice is dependent on who is killing, who are they killing and what weapons are they using to kill? The Inverse has happened, injustice.
Last Thursday, Bashar Al Assad lied, he lied about those he had killed in the worst way. In Birat Armanaz he set his war planes on a school. The head teacher Jihad Maboush and a teacher called Ahmad Barakat and his daughter, along with seven other children were bombed as they took lessons in their classroom. Assad used his terror card by stating he had killed leaders of Jabhat al Nusrah. Raising questions about those that supported him by supplying him nerve gas and those he has learned from about lies on WMDs, the same people who claim they are bombing ISIS when they are bombing areas that oppose ISIS, does not make us extremists. It presents us as a thinking strong community who challenge governments wherever they are and account rulers whoever they may be. As one lady told me there is nothing British about British values.
Unity is the key to all of this. The moral high ground was lost a long time ago when the war on terror was declared. But the CTS Act passed unopposed by all parties in this Parliament exposes that war to be on Muslims. You lose any argument when you use legislation to force a narrative that doesn’t agree with yours and don’t have the courage to define terms in legislation such as extremism because you know that may give rise to challenge and defence by those you accuse.
In this climate we must not stand behind organisations that speak out and challenge, we must stand next to them, align ourselves to them and say to them as our Prophet said to the Ansar: You are of me, and I am of you.
I end with the words of a man that would not heed under oppression and coercion and force, Malcolm X: “Truth is on the side of the oppressed.”
Ibtihal Bsis is deputy women’s media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir, UK.
You can follow Ibtihal on Twitter @UmmHarith