Muslim Wire

Spying on Muslims Stirs UK Furor

Posted in Politics, Society by muslimwire on October 20, 2009

CAIRO — The government’s exploitation of an anti-terror program to spy on innocent Muslims has stirred furor across Britain, prompting MPs to launch an investigation while civil liberty groups are considering legal action.

“We will be inquiring into these allegations,” Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the parliament’s home affairs committee, told the Guardian on Monday, October 19.

“We have the power to offer private sessions to those who wish to bring to parliament’s attention issues concerning Prevent and its alleged gathering of sensitive information on the innocent.”

The Guardian revealed on Friday that the government is using its “Prevent” anti-terror strategy to spy on innocents Muslims.

Sources close to the program said it is being used to gather sensitive information about Muslims who are not involved in criminal activity, including political and religious views, mental health, sexual activity and associates.

The gathered information can be stored until the people concerned reach the age of 100.

Launched by the Home Office in 2003, the “Prevent” strategy is an updated version of the government counter-terrorism strategy (called Contest).

The government says the strategy aims to prevent Muslims from being lured into extremist ideologies.

“Combating radical Islamist ideas is one thing; gathering and keeping intelligence on the innocent is another, stressed Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman.

“Prevent must not become an intrusive spying program that destroys relationships within the Muslim community and between Muslims and the rest of society.”

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of more than two millions, mostly of Asian backgrounds.

They have taken the brunt of anti-terror laws since 9/11 and particularly after the 7/7 bombing attacks.

Many Muslims complain of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.

Legal Actions

Human rights activists said the government’s actions breach a guarantee of a right to privacy in the Human Rights Act.

“Not only is it morally reprehensible to treat law-abiding Muslim citizens as a subversive threat, it is also hugely counter-productive,” said Robert Lambert, who headed a special branch unit countering extremism by working with Muslims.

“If ministers continue … they will begin to jeopardize social cohesion as well as effective and legitimate counter-terrorism in the UK.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, dismissed Prevent as the biggest spying program in Britain in modern times and an affront to civil liberties.

“We’re inviting people who feel they may have been affected to come forward to us, and we will consider litigation,” she told the Guardian.

“We also invite anyone who has been working on these projects and has concerns.”

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