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There are several definitions of the term terrorism available but not any one of them is agreed upon by the international community. Terrorism can be defined as "the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear" (wornetweb). The term was coined by the French government while naming the state acts against the population of the country during 1970s. (Barker, 2002)However, different perspectives may or may not regard an act as terrorism.
The term got global popularity after the terrorist attacks at twin towers in USA. A wave of unrest had run across the globe, specifically in Europe and America. After the incident, several countries passed resolutions and instigated laws to cater the problem. There has been large effort to deal with the issue in the European Union, largely led by UK. The government of UK has enforced terrorism, crime and security act in 2001 and other acts to handle the threats posed to the masses and government of the country. (anonymous, 2003)These laws provided exceptional powers to the department of police to cope with unexpected state of affairs.
Prior to September 11 attacks, Terrorism act 2000 was in effect. Under this act, any organization or group, terrorist in nature, is banned to practice in the country. The detention period was extended from 24 to 48 hours and even to a week on the special permission from magistrate. (anonymous, 2003)
The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA)
But after the attack, The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) were introduced by the Labor Government in 2001 as response to it. It was built on the terrorism act 2000. This act provides an unmitigated authority of infinite detention if anyone is suspected with the foreign terrorist charge even if there is no other legal reason to deport them. (anonymous, 2003). This act was a clear suspension of European convention's article five. This article is about human rights and forbids Human detention without trial.
After the 7/7 attacks in 2005 in England, another act named as Prevention of terrorism Act 2006 was introduced. The act was directed to amend the existing legislation, with the main focus on bringing new dimensions into the activities related to terrorism such as acts preparatory to terrorism, encouragements to terrorism and terrorist training etc.
By extending the detention to three months' time, one can judge that the government wants to increase the time for which the police helds the suspects. Under this law, the home secretary was given power to make control orders, such as restrictions on the use of mobile phones, limitations on the interaction and association with the named individuals or the organizations, and the use of tagging. However, in the Act, the unclear definition of offensive speech and other implications rendered it offensive for many of the human rights laws and acts. (R. Briggs, 2006)
The powers given were fully exercised and in the period of two years, from September 2001 to October 2003, 456 people were arrested. According to the statistics provided by the home office in May 2009, out of 1471 people arrested till 2008, only 340 were charged with offences related to terrorism. The rest two third of the suspects were released without charge (travis, 2009).
Anti-terrorist legislation and Muslims:
One of the world's diverse communities of Muslims is in UK. The two major locations are Liverpool and Woking, with a large number of converted Muslims playing important roles. People from Arab world and various parts of Asia (specifically from South-East Asia) migrated to Britain after world war-2. However, the modern diversified community consists of Muslims from Africa and East Asia as well. There are approximately 2 million Muslims present in UK currently, about half of which were born there and three quarters having Asian ethnicity. Overall, the community has 56 nationalities present and 70 languages spoken. (Hussain, 2007)
Muslims living in UK form one of the most deprived communities within the state. One third of them have no qualification at all, the figure is highest among all religious groups. (Hussain, 2007).
The relations between Muslims and all other groups within UK, specifically the mainstream British society is a matter of great interest and of hot debate after the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks. Prior to 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, Muslims were accepted as Britain citizen like people of all other races and ethnic backgrounds. Post-attacks scenario made them suspects of terrorist activities. A survey conducted by several Muslim groups found that since 9/11, 80% of Muslim respondents reported being subjected to Islamophobia; 68% felt they had been perceived and treated differently; and 32% reported being subjected to discrimination at UK airports. (FAIR 2004, cited in Bunglawala et al. 2004). Several laws incorporated into the legislation affected the day to day lives of members of the Muslim community residing in UK. The Major effects can be summed up under the following heads:
Instigation of fear:
Anti-terrorism laws instigated by the government fostered the climate of fear, political repression and censorship. After the enforcement and practice of these laws, there has been an increase in the social exclusion of some fragments of Muslim community. The members with "extremist" views, as defined by western world, constitute the major section associated with this suffering. Most of the members are generally fearful to speak to others about their emotions and inner feelings. There is an uncertainty about the reach and effect of these counter-terrorism laws. (Hussain, 2007)
The fear translates itself into practices that may involve support and assistance to them who may be loosely connected to the suspected individuals or families. For example, several families that had been suspected faced financial crisis but could not receive any kind of financial or moral help from the Muslim community, which was proved to be greatly generous in the past times. (Z. Bunglawala., 2004)
Hampered individual rights
The human rights are one of the most affected areas by the practice of counter terrorism legislation. Muslims living in UK, be them of any ethnic background, are subjected to various investigations and detentions based on the involvement in the terrorist activities. However, the relation to any terrorist activity is a vague term and has been loosely defines in these laws. The broad definitions of terms and the wide categorization of these activities make a lot of people the suspects for detentions and trials.
The terrorism act of 2006 includes a number of offences that bring people into the circle of terrorists. For example, the direct or indirect encouragement or inducement of terrorism is a broad term. This offence is built on the terrorist act of 2000 with a further addition to it. Such vague criteria result in the criminalization of the terms and statements that are actually perfectly lawful. For instance, if a political or social Muslim leader utters a statement that is somehow against the western way of life and goes in favor of suicide bombers etc., he can be suspected of having links with terrorist organizations. The example provides a clear violation of the right of self expression, which is a basic human right and cannot be usurped from any citizen. (Henning, 2005)
Moreover, the right of freedom of expression does not only imply the protection of views that favorable but also of those that are controversial and offensive. The media has the right to air such views and the public can hear them. but after the implication of the legislation, all such rights are clutched with no freedom of expression given to Muslims and suspects.
The words 'radical or 'extremist' are used in context other than this and are considered less negative. However, when terrorism is in background, the word automatically becomes downbeat and is taken in a negative way. One reason may be the use of word Islamic in most of the videos released by the terrorist organizations. Besides, detentions of several Muslims from London to Guantanamo Bay also paved the way to use the term in offensive meanings. (Birdwell, 2009)
Some British Muslims feel more alienated after the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent war on terrorism and its consequences. They become less loyal to British government and gradually try to move out of the system constituted by the government and their communities. However, according to the British-Asian newspaper, eastern-eye, there were a little differences between the loyalties of Muslims and other Asians residing in UK. However, it is entirely difficult to measure the exact figures for the loyalty and radicalization. (Birdwell, 2009)
However, certain theories have been put forward to explain the causes of this emerging radicalization with Britain. One of the most frequent theories about the origin and development of the sapling of radicalization makes various religious organizations responsible for it. They are often alleged for indoctrinating fundamental beliefs into people that violence is the appropriate and the final way of making your words hearable. (Dittrich, 2007)According to this theory, the organizations can be categorized into three groups i.e. political and religious, non political religious, religious and non-political.
This radicalization poses a major threat to UK and its security. The solution if looked for, superficially involves the elimination of these drivers or the causes behind the movement. However, to prevent the future Muslim generations from becoming alienated, it is necessary to go deep into the matter, the causes and the encouraging agents and to understand the complex framework of mindsets and group psychologies to uproot the problem.
The history of terrorism on the earth dates back to older times but the term and the activities due to which the concept got popped up was the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001. Since then, various states have incorporated laws pertaining to their legislations and implemented them. UK, one of the active members of the European Union also incorporated certain laws and acts into its structure of rulings. In this context, there were three acts introduced in 2000, 2001 and 2006. Each one of them enhanced the power exercised by the law enforcing bodies within the country for a better eradication of terrorism. However, the practice under these acts on one side made it possible to tag and investigate several suspects but on the other hand offended Muslim community residing in the state. The members of the community feel alienated and humiliated by the treatment of police and other investigating agencies. Their privacy has been interrupted and basic human rights have been usurped. The consequences are even more disturbing. The major consequence is Radicalization leading to extremism in the ill-treated individuals and their related ones. Effectiveness of counter terrorism measures has greatly been reduced as they are directed to criminalize Muslim community rather than being productive for the better eradication of the problem. The way in which these Muslims have been treated has made them reluctant in helping the government for annihilation of the cause despite their urge and willingness to do that.
Thus, if the laws made are meant to be purposeful in reality, they need to be implemented with care and proper planning.