As British police continue to search the house of Abdul Waheed Majeed in Crawley the jury is already out. The British born Muslim is alleged to have participated in the freeing of hundreds of people imprisoned in the torture cells of Aleppo is being treated as a terrorist.
Officials from across the government have recently weighed in with their dogmatic opinions on any UK citizens who travels to fight in Syria. Since November 2013 various British officials have been making it clear that Britain will consider anyone who travels to Syria as a terrorist.
In his parliamentary hearing in late December 2013, Andrew Parker, head of domestic intelligence service MI5, said the Syrian conflict was attracting al-Qaeda UK sympathisers. This was after a video emerged of soldiers fighting in Syria with British accents. The Home Secretary also weighed in December, highlighting she revoked the British citizenship of 20 individuals in 2013 – more than her previous two- and-a-half years combined.
By 3 February 2014 the head of counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service warned Britons that they could face jail if they travel to Syria to take part in the conflict or attending rebel training camps.
The hypocrisy is in the fact that those who went to fight in Libya were portrayed as “resistance” and “rebels,” whilst those going to fight in Syria are being labeled as “terrorists,” “insurgents” and radicals.
The media celebrated Muslim Libyan fighters in a way not seen for some time, although initially there were many questions as to the political identity of the ‘rebels.’ British citizens of Libyan origin were interviewed and lauded for their bravery and sacrifice – leaving the comfort of their lives in the UK to fight for what they believed in.
However Syria is being viewed in the same light as Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya, where those fighting are being labelled ‘terrorists.’ Many of these fighters were arrested or kidnapped, in some cases tortured and then imprisoned.
Whilst the removal of Gaddafi was viewed as liberation, Syria is being portrayed very differently.
The idea that someone could join the resistance in Syria in the name of Islam is an anathema to the western media. Individual Muslims have even been singled out for prosecution under anti-terrorism laws, though once upon a time the mujahideen fighting against the Soviet Union were lauded as heroes.
All of this merely proves something well known – the politics of ‘terrorism’ is that of hypocrisy. The liberation of Libya from Gaddafi illustrates how Western interests define the labels of freedom fighter or terrorist amongst allies and enemies. One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist, depending on their interests. Today, the politics of ‘terrorism,’ laws relating to ‘terrorism’ and media coverage on ‘terrorism’ is all based exclusively on a political agenda.
British history has numerous examples of non-Muslims participating in conflicts abroad. George Orwell and Laurie Lee fought in the Spanish civil war and were they to return from the Spanish civil war today, they would be arrested under section five of the Terrorism Act.
The argument for defining every violent act in the name of political or ideological causes is usually blowback – i.e. such individuals may return the UK with their new skills and target the homeland. This however contradicts the history of armed struggle. Terrorism, the use of terror or violence is a tactic utilised by a wide array of individuals, groups and states and something that has existed throughout history. Terrorism did not come into existence on 7/7. Terror or violence transcends across various fault lines and there is no single creed, ethnicity, political persuasion or nationality with a monopoly on terrorism. Individuals and groups of individuals from almost every conceivable background from late Victorian-era anarchists to tribal clansmen to North Korean intelligence officers – have conducted terrorist attacks. Statistical data shows most terrorist attacks are conducted by non-Muslims in the West with various grievances and not Muslims who travel to conflict zones. Europol data showed that between 2006 to 2008 99.6% of all terrorist activity in Europe was conducted by non-Muslims. And official FBI records showed 94% of terrorist attacks on American soil from 1980 to 2005 were also perpetrated by non-Muslims.
Considering the opposition in Syria is not controlled by foreign entities why is Syria being treated different to those that went to fight in Libya? The political agenda was aptly encapsulated by Former US ambassador to Syria Ryan Crocker: “We need to come to terms with a future that includes Assad – and consider that as bad as he is, there is something worse.”
As the Ummah of Syria battle for real change working to overthrow the brutal al-Assad regime, with an Islamic government, which represents their beliefs. Britain like its western allies is working hard to ensure Syria ends like many of the other surrounding uprisings, where the faces changed by another crony taking the helms.