The Muslim campaigner Moazzam Begg has been charged with ‘terrorism-related’ offences relating to a trip to Syria.
Moazzam was unjustly incarcerated in the US-Gulag at Guantanamo Bay and on his return became the foremost advocate against the on-going abuses there, as well as the wider programme of unlawful detentions and the complicity of the US and UK governments in torture – especially in countries such as Libya and Syria.
But Moazzam, widely respected though he is, is only one of many who have been penalized related to the on-going Syrian conflict. Many unnamed Muslim men and women in the UK have been detained under terror-related laws. A teacher from the north of England was held like a terrorist despite never having travelled to Syria. His career and reputation were ruined despite police saying ‘there is nothing to suggest that any of the wider community in Manchester has been under threat’. Charities have been under fire for their sending of charitable aid to Syria.
So, the question should be asked: Why is Syria a ‘forbidden’ conflict’ as far as the UK state is concerned? Why are there no similar penalties for those who join the Israeli Defence Force, well known for its brutality and crimes? Why were there no similar penalties for British citizens who went to Libya to help fight the tyrannical forces of Muammar Gaddafi? Why does British history celebrate the personal contributions of those who travelled to Spain to fight Franco’s regime, yet criminalise those who travel to Syria to fight Assad’s regime? Why, why, why the hypocrisy?
The reasons can be divided into two: Firstly, British Foreign Policy and secondly the desire to suppress Muslims in Britain.
British Foreign Policy and the Syrian Conflict – In Libya, Britain and other powers saw that their man in Tripoli was on his last legs. They intervened after they felt they had secured a new leadership that safeguarded their energy interests in Libya. But in Syria, Assad has proved more resilient and a compliant alternative leadership has been elusive. Consequently, Britain initially supported Assad and was very late in the day to denounce him. America did so even later and Russia still refuses to do so. Moreover, Britain and America, whilst searching for a credible opposition that secures Western interests, have done nothing except offer rhetoric against Assad.
Initially the people of Syria called for international help but saw the hypocritical stance by the West. So they learned to rely on Allah alone to fight against the murderous regime and defend the people. The opposition may not be wholly unified but their motivation, language and character is clearly Islamic. This has not sat comfortably with Western policy makers who recognize that a future Syria with an independent Islamic outlook would not be a compliant agent in the region. Hence, there began a systematic campaign to demonise the opposition in Syria as ‘extremists’ – then later to say some had ‘links to terrorists’.
British State policy towards the Muslim Community – The British State would like to see a Muslim community that values UK Foreign Policy interests above any love for their Ummah.
The government has used sporadic violent incidents as excuses to further a programme of assimilation for Muslims in Britain under an ‘anti-terror’ label. They falsely argue the more Islamic a person is, the more potentially dangerous they are. That is why a spectrum of behaviour – from supporting the Ummah in a variety of ways to separate seating for men and women – has all been demonized as ‘extremist’. They hope to create a ‘British Islam’ where any element of Islam that conflicts with the interests of the nation state, global capitalism, or liberal secular values is abolished from beliefs and practices.
This is why Muslims who support those who oppose Assad in Syria are criminalized or demonized – even those who do charitable work.
This is why anti-terror laws have been drafted so widely that can include people who do nothing violent.
This is why those anti-terror laws are applied selectively according to the political motivations of the State – laws which could later be applied to non-Muslim dissenting voices, as they are today applied to Muslim dissenting voices.
This is why Islam is demonized and practicing Muslims are attacked as ‘extreme’.
What should we be doing?
- Stand by those who are targeted and demonized: People may ask whether or not these people are innocent – but should be in no doubt as to the guilt of successive British governments in their anti-Muslim policies. We must continue to offer our dua for our brother Moazzam Begg and his family at this testing time – as well as with any who have been treated unjustly over these issues. We must not abandon those families who have become victims of draconian politicized policies that have made Britain a police state for Muslims.
- Stand by those who oppose Assad: We must continue to support, with our words and prayers, those who are driven by their Islamic motivation to remove Assad’s regime– in particular those in the opposition who say they will implement a sincere and just Islamic system in Syria if they were successful. We should not be deterred by the scare-mongering rhetoric from sending our sadaqah to help people in the region.
- Understand and make people aware of the neo-colonial plans in Syria and elsewhere. The leaders of great powers such as Britain, Europe, the United States and Russia may enjoy their power games in the Middle East, Af-Pak, Ukraine and in Africa – but their games bring instability and misery for millions around the world, and we should expose this.
- Stand for our Islamic identity and values: We should recognize the challenge to the identity and values of Muslims in Britain – and work to preserve these noble Islamic values, practice our deen with dignity and explain and invite others to it. There are many people here looking for something as an alternative, both personally and as an alternative in the geopolitical arena. Perhaps Allah will guide them through our example and words.
We must remember always that Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala is the one to rely upon and to ask for help and protection. He is ever watchful over all things.
And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most people do not realize it. [Translated meaning of Qur’an 12:21]
Chairman of UK-Executive Committee
1st Jumada I, 1435
2nd March, 2014