A War of Ideas: The danger of the Counter-Terror Bill

A scene from Mosul. Pic: Muna Fadhil

A scene from Mosul. Pic: A citizen of Mosul.

Eastlondonlines reporter Muna Fadhil on the events in Paris and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill.

When I was told that I had been awarded a scholarship to study in London for a year I was relieved to escape the inferno that Iraq has become. I was looking forward to not sitting at security briefings and emergency meetings at my former job with the UN and being told that the Islamic State is at our door step, more refugees are coming and that the sky is falling.

But the war followed me to London. Every Brit I meet confronts me with questions and comments about the wars I left back home. And even here in Europe, the Islamic State is at our doorstep, migrants are a problem and the sky is falling.

For the last two days I have been following the news of the attack on Paris with great anxiety. The attackers viciously shot their way through yelling Allah wa Akbar and by doing so – besides the brutality of the murder itself – put more than two million French Muslims under fire of scrutiny and suspicion.

This past December the Islamic State told ‘aspiring jihadis’ to carry out lone attacks against targets in Europe. By lone attacks the State meant, you don’t have to be part of a militia, you don’t even have to tell us, just do your thing.

Today we are not fighting a conventional war against militias. This is a war of ideas. Thanks to the internet ideas spread like wildfire. People who are clueless outsiders to the real troubles of the Middle East, fall for this kind of propaganda.

Recently I spoke to a 12-year-old girl from Brixton who thought the Islamic State were heroes out to rescue Iraq and Syria. As a person of Muslim descent who has been done severe damage by fundamentalist Muslims – more so than damage caused by consecutive wars and economic sanctions – I was baffled.

I wanted to tell her about the daily dose of horror her “heroes” place on my family in Iraq (Muslims much like herself); like how my aunt stood inches away from a woman who had her face blown off when she talked back at a member of the Islamic State for not wearing a black burka; or how my uncle had both his arms chopped off with a cleaver because his brother traded with an American company. But I was not sure this was appropriate talk to tell a child. So I walked away.

Today I find myself obsessing over the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, just debated in the House of Commons. I greatly admire Britain which is why I am baffled at how it can produce a legislation so Orwellian.

The bill requires schools and universities to spy on their students and report on the radicals; strips its citizens of their passports if considered suspects of or at risk of being affect by terror, rendering them stateless; strips parents of their children if they are suspected of being radical. The core of its controversy – besides its other problems – is that the bill does not define what “terror” or “extremism” is, nor who defines it. To me it does not seem too different than what the Australians did to the Aborigines, or what the Nazis did to the Jews.

I must say, my faith in and my admiration of Britain remains high as I watch journalists, legal activists and MPs debate the bill to shreds, raising every concern I have over it.

Legislation such as this is needed – no doubt – but Britain’s counter-terror forces need to understand that this is not a conventional war against a defined militia. This is a war against fundamental ideas. Anyone can be infected. Legislations like the counter-terror bill could backfire. Britain has more than 2.5 million Muslims to think of.

Some may say, you’re in the UK for a year, this is not your fight –  put a sock in it. Let me say again that my concerns are of an avid fan and a grateful beneficiary to the generosity of the British government who fund my studies. I’ve lived in warzones all my life. I understand radical ideas. Please take my critique seriously because I say it with love.

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