The government’s terrorism adviser just resigned, for reasons that should worry us all

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A Home Office terrorism adviser, Jahan Mahmood, has resigned claiming that terrorism policing is causing radicalisation and “an atmosphere of fear”.

His resignation comes as figures show nearly two thirds of those arrested for terrorism offences are released without charge. Out of 289 terrorism arrests in 2014, only 102 were later charged, making up just 35% of the figures. Mr Mahmood stated “There are simply too many arrests”, further commenting that the climate of fear is leading counter terrorism officers to make arrests on “very flimsy evidence”.

These views are backed up by a poll earlier in the year which found 1 in 4 Muslims view the actions of the police and MI5 as being responsible for the radicalisation of young people. A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain stated:

For many, current counter-terrorism measures, particularly related to the Prevent strategy, actually lead to greater alienation as Muslims are seen through the lens of security, rather than tackling the scourge of terrorism itself.

This issue was highlighted earlier in the week by students across the country taking action against the Prevent strategy. which has seen children as young as 9 branded as potential terrorists. Under the banner #studentsnotsuspects, the nationwide events demonstrated how the programme is criminalising students and creating Islamaphobia.

Another reminder of the necessity for action is the case of a student who was questioned by Special Branch after reading information about ISIS online that was needed for their course in  Clash of Fundamentalisms at the University of East Anglia (UEA). Chris Jarvis, the Campaigns and Democracy Officer at UEA said:

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The prospect that a UEA student studying fundamentalism can’t now surf across Isis propaganda without a visit from counter-terrorism police is worrying and confirms our suspicions that the government’s Prevent [counter-terrorism] agenda is quickly turning students into suspects. If we’re not careful, the Prevent strategy could end up preventing the wrong thing – learning about, critiquing and ultimately defeating terrorism – and could lead to the criminalisation of study.

Meanwhile, scaremongering rages across newspaper front pages, with hysterical headlines telling us that a Jihadist is arrested every day, and a further 3000 are being watched. Such headlines ratchet up the climate of fear whilst neglecting to inform people of the wider context of those who are arrested and released without charge.

One such person is Waris Ali, who was 17 when he was arrested and charged with terrorism offences. Whilst he was eventually acquitted, he spent months in youth detention and under house arrest. He drew attention to the alienation politically engaged Muslims feel stating:

There are many politically engaged Muslims – you see them on TV. But you see those same Muslims being smeared and labelled and being called an Islamist or terrorist sympathiser – even Jeremy Corbyn has been called a terrorist sympathiser by the Prime Minister.

Today is Human Rights day, and people have taken to Twitter to express what human rights mean to them, and how important they are.

In an increasing environment of Islamaphobia, this is an important message. Freedom of speech and expression are rights we should hold dear, and we should be alarmed at how quickly they are being eroded. Furthermore, as the police and security services continue to trample over these rights, they are radicalising more people, and causing more divisions. We must stand together, across all communities, and show this repression will not be tolerated.

Featured image via Elliott Brown

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