Hysteria, racism behind new terror laws Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 August 2005


If it’s true that terrorists are driven by a hatred of Western “democracies” and liberal ideas, it’s more than ironic that, in the wake of the London bombings, there is bipartisan agreement in Australia to step up security surveillance, target and intimidate Muslims, increase censorship, threaten deportation and increase racial profiling.

After a hysterical campaign led by the Murdoch press and radio shock-jocks, Attorney-General Philip Rudduck has floated the possibility of new laws to ban books “promoting” or “justifying” terrorism.

The outgoing NSW premier, Bob Carr, was the first Labor leader to propose random bag searches — a measure enthusiastically supported by his Victorian Labor counterpart Steve Bracks and federal Labor leader Kim Beazley. This is despite laws already in place that allow police to conduct bag searches on the grounds of “reasonable suspicion”.

Carr and federal Liberal MP Steve Ciobo even proposed that Australians be stripped of their citizenship if they incite, support or engage in terrorist activity.

The Muslim community has been blamed for supposedly not doing enough to stop the spread of terrorism. But ideas cannot be deported or blocked at immigration barriers.

We can be sure that the intense scrutiny and surveillance of Muslim Australians will fuel a build-up of resentment and anxiety that could be a spark for anti-social acts.

Sherene Hassan, an executive committee member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, told Green Left Weekly she felt the Muslim community was being “unfairly targeted” and that some of the so-called anti-terrorism measures being canvassed were too radical.

“The Muslim community has done everything we can to condemn terrorism and we don’t have the legislative power to do more. ASIO would know far more about the goings-on in the Muslim community than the community itself. Any measures to counter terrorism that involve the destruction of civil liberties are of concern to everyone.”

Hassan pointed to the killing of the Brazilian man in London by police “because he had brown skin” as evidence that cool heads have to prevail to “make sure civil liberties aren't eroded”.

Hassan said that the Islamic Council believed that there is a “low-level anti-Muslim backlash” following the London bombings. “People are feeling the tension in the street and the supermarket.”

Asked whether she thought withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan would have an impact on the terror bombings, Hassan replied, “We really don’t know. But the invasion of Iraq certainly hasn’t helped.”

But Dalal Ouba, an activist in the Sydney Stop the War Coalition, believes that Howard’s “dangerous tunnel vision” and Australia’s participation in the wars has exacerbated the problem.

“There is a huge vacuum in Australia’s democracy. Some political party needs to stand up and say ‘Howard, you are responsible for terrorism! Get the troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan now!’ We need to withdraw before it is too late.”

Keysar Trad from the Sydney-based Islamic Friendship Association of Australia, said that the Australian government’s response to the London terrorist attacks showed it was “clutching at straws”.

“They are trying to find all sorts of excuses for what’s happening in the world, without acknowledging that they’ve embarked on unjust foreign policies which are impacting on security of the world.”

In Trad’s view, the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan is not central to stemming the wave of terror bombings. Rather, he says what will have most impact is if the government stops ascribing the actions of terrorists to a religion — Islam.

“We don’t accept that young men blew themselves up because they are Muslim. The bombings in London and war in Iraq are politically motivated, not religious conflicts”, said Trad.

Dr Waleed Kadous, a spokesperson for the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN) told Green Left Weekly that when tragic incidents such as the London bombings take place, the government shouldn’t try to tighten the screws on democratic rights. “The current anti-terror laws take away some of our most important rights and if changes are necessary, they should not be driven by a reaction to a single situation. We have already seen the cost of the overreaction in London — the fatal police shooting of a Brazilian man.”

Kadous said there have been instances of people researching the topic of terrorism for their PhDs who are being questioned by the Australian Federal Police over their library borrowing patterns.

“It is getting very easy to find someone guilty of something under the new anti-terror laws because of the breadth of the definitions”, he said, adding that the recent public discussions that counterpose “Anglo-Celtic” to “Muslim” culture “reinforce the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists”.

Kadous believes that the actions of the United States and Britain in Afghanistan and Iraq and particularly “fiascos like Abu Ghraib” have made it easier for terrorists to recruit young people to their cause. “They see huge injustices and they become convinced that [suicide bombing] is the only way to do something.” Kadous is convinced that the exit of foreign troops from Iraq and Afghanistan “would remove one of the planks relied upon by terrorist recruiters”.

Sarah Stephen

Green Left Weekly , August 3, 2005.

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