LONDON – The British government is planning to set up special intelligence units to monitor Muslims nationwide to better detect extremists and thwart eventual attacks, a newspaper reported. The Muslim Contact Units, staffed by London’s Metropolitan Police Special Branch officers, will be established in areas including Yorkshire, northwest England and parts of the Midlands, the Guardian reported. “Deep knowledge of Muslim communities is rare in the service,” a senior police officer with knowledge of the scheme told the Guardian. “If you are going to understand who is extreme and who is dangerous, which are different (ideas), you have to understand the community,” the officer was quoted as saying “Unless you know the subject well and what they are saying, often in Arabic or Urdu, and what the context is, you are not going to get a feel for it,” the source said. He stressed that the squads would be open about their work. “It is not about spying.” The police and Home Office said a Muslim Contact Unit operating in London has already helped thwart extremist attempts to recruit young British Muslims to violent jihad, by working with Islamic communities, the Guardian said. The establishment of the special units is one of the first concrete counter-terrorist measure to emerge after the July 7 London bombings on three subway trains and one bus that claimed the lives of 56 people. Prime Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday met moderate British Muslim leaders and agreed on a taskforce to produce measures to tackle extremism. The units will not only gather intelligence on extremist activity but also help protect Muslim communities from abuse and attacks, the Guardian said. Any leads on extremists can be passed to the security services or acted upon by police. Plans to expand the Muslim Contact Units are expected to get final approval and funding soon from ministers, it added.
PARIS (Reuters) – A top European human rights watchdog said on Wednesday Britain’s anti-terrorism laws breached European standards and could force London to opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite improvements, Britain still tended to see human rights as an obstacle to the criminal justice system, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles said in a report. He welcomed a decision by Britain’s top court which forced Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government to drop a measure allowing detention of foreign terrorist suspects without charge. But problems remained with the law that replaced it. The 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act allows Britain’s Home Secretary (interior minister) to issue “control orders” against terrorism suspects, which restrict their freedom of movement, where they live and with whom they may communicate. “The Act acknowledges some … of these restrictions may be incompatible with Article 5 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) on the right to liberty, in which case the possibility of derogating from the UK’s obligations under this article is foreseen,” the report said. Control orders replaced the criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive. Special laws might be necessary to counter the risk of terrorist attack but judicial guarantees should always be applied, it added. Andrew Bell, a spokesman for the British government, said London welcomed the report and would “give careful consideration to the issues and recommendations.” In London, the minister responsible for the modernisation of the criminal justice system, Baroness Scotland, defended Britain’s far-reaching anti-terrorism laws. “Those control orders are proportionate,” she told Channel 4 television news. “What we are doing is limiting the ability of those individuals who’ve been identified as potentially causing a risk to our country… “I absolutely do not accept that we are in any way exaggerating the threat,” she said. “What are the alternatives? What is being suggested that we should put in place to keep our country safe?” Some British Muslims, who say they have borne the brunt of laws which give police extra powers to stop and search suspects, welcomed Gil-Robles’ report. The British Islamic Human Rights Commission commended it “for clearly shaming the UK as a nation which, rather than improving, is rapidly digressing from the most basic of human rights obligations”. “The British government … continues to oppress the minorities in Britain through a general policy of fear,” IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said. “Fear of terrorism, fear of asylum seekers, fear of Muslims and general fear of ‘the Other’.”
German officials are drawing up lists of hundreds of Muslims to be deported from the country under a new law making expulsions easier, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday. Der Spiegel said authorities were already using their powers under an immigration law introduced this month in conducting an operation dubbed Aktion Kehraus (Action Sweep Out). The interior ministry declined to comment on the report beyond saying that deportations were a matter for Germany’s 16 federal states. Under new rules, potential deportees will not be able to use normal legal channels to challenge an expulsion order. A special panel of the Federal Administrative Court will be responsible, with no right of appeal. Der Spiegel said judges were expected to deal with up to 2000 cases a year. Clampdown Since the revelations in 2001 that Arab students who had lived for years in Hamburg led the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, Germans have questioned their liberal laws under which some suspects even drew welfare benefits. Interior Minister Otto Schily has suggested that evidence of training at an al-Qaida camp should be clear grounds for expelling a foreign national. Distributing videos calling for “holy war” could also be punished the same way.
LONDON – In a move to assure its Muslim community introduction of the first ID cards in Britain since the Second World War was not signaling them out, the government will reportedly exempt Muslim women from showing their faces on the controversial ID cards. On Monday, April 26, British Home Secretary, David Blunkett is to unveil plans for a national pilot of biometric testing, the technology used in ID cards, as part of a draft Bill to crack down on identity fraud, according to the Independent daily Sunday, April 25. As cards introduction, Blunkett came under severe attacks for not allowing enough debate over the ID British officials made it clear that if Muslim women do not want to reveal their faces in public, that would be respected, reported the Observer Sunday. “Instead of a photograph, there would be an exemption for certain people, who would only have to give fingerprint and iris-recognition data.
LONDON, March 21 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – British universities are helping intelligence agencies listen to Muslim and foreign students’ phone calls and intercept e-mails, another proof that the world has become a different place for Muslims after September 11 attacks, a British newspaper report uncovered on Sunday, March 21. The report revealed by the Sunday Telegraph said that most of the country’s universities co-operate with the Special Branch, Britain’s police unit concerned with national security, and the domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5 in the surveillance, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported on Sunday, March 21. Unnamed security sources and university officials admitted that the scheme was set up after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. “Since September 11, we are co-operating with the security services in a much deeper way than before. We take it very seriously,” one senior university official said. Red Flag An official connected to British and American security declared that details of students’ telephone numbers, email and home addresses are being passed by universities to the police, MI5 and the Foreign Office, the AFP said. A particularly close eye is kept on students from so-called “red flag” countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, Libya and Syria. “They are helping the security services look at students from the red flag countries. It’s pretty well known that it’s happening,” said the official who also has links to a leading university. “With all the forms students fill in it is not difficult to get their mobile phone numbers or emails, or find out what kind of activities they are doing or where they hang out.” The paper added that MI5 and MI6 have also used academics to recruit British students. Criticism The declaration interrogated criticism for the British policies as considered a violation of the students’ human rights. Ian Gibson, the Labour chairman of the Commons science and technology committee, said that his committee had heard evidence that foreign students were being spied on, something he considered against the principle of freedom in academia, the Telegraph said. “I think there will be a number of universities that are doing this,” Gibson said. “It goes absolutely against the principle of freedom in academia and allowing people to associate with whom they like or think what they like,” he added. Chris Weavers, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, criticized the security assumption that individuals from certain countries might form risk. “I think there needs to be very strong justification for any such surveillance. Just assuming that any individual from a certain country might be a risk is utterly unrealistic,” Weavers said. However, he admitted: “We’ve seen many people from the United Kingdom who have been involved in terrorists attacks.” Meanwhile, the paper clarified that it is illegal for the police or security service to intercept directly e-mails or telephone calls without a warrant or permission from the Home Secretary. Both, however, are exempt from the Data Protection Act. On the other hand, Robert Key, the MP for Salisbury and a Conservative member of the select committee, welcomed the surveillance. “Given the current security situation I wouldn’t be against it as long as the Government was in complete control of the situation,” Key said. Now, Scotland Yard Special Branch officers monitor e-mails and mobile telephones and universities are expected to pass on suspicious meetings, activities or absences. Several students are believed to have been ordered to leave Britain as a result of such monitoring under the pretext they had links to extremist groups. Since September 11, the international student community in both the U.S. and Britain has greatly changed. On a press release on 22 February, 2002 obtained by IslamOnline.net, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) denounced the HR 3077 bill which is currently awaiting a vote by the U.S. Senate which would endanger freedom in academia. The bill proposes amendments to parts of the Higher Education Act of 1965 dealing with international studies programs at universities nationwide. One of the prime changes to the legislation includes establishing a federal advisory board, which would oversee all of these international studies programs.