Kafkaesque. This is how Hamza Yusuf, probably one the most popular Muslim scholars and speakers in the West, described his recent detention by US immigration officials.
It is also the word I'd used to describe the new laws the new Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, would like to bring in.
UK citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism could face house arrest as part of a series of new measures outlined by the home secretary.
British citizens are being included in the changes after the law lords said the current powers were discriminatory because they could only be used on foreign suspects. Mr Clarke also said intelligence reports showed some British nationals were now playing a more significant role in terror threats.
Not content with whipping up a frenzy with arrests that are given wide publicity (though not making such a big deal when these people are released), this Labour government seems content to destroy the very core of the legal traditions in this country (see their meddling with the Lord Chancellor's office).
Mr. Clarke tells us that "there remains a public emergency threatening the life of the nation". There remain immediate threats against blacks and Asians and other minorities from racists like David Copeland, the BNP and Nick Griffin, and the NF. Where are the measures protecting us against the activities of these people? And what exactly does he mean by "threat to the life of the nation"? Far too many people die of disease due to unhealthy lifestyles, far too many people die from car accidents, and far too many people suffer from violent crime. These examples might seem banal, but are these not 'emergencies threatening the life of our nation'? In Northern Ireland similar powers were used under the internment measures. Almost everyone questioned will now say that the use of internment laws was a disaster, because they were used almost exclusively against Catholics, the overwhelming majority of whom were not members of any paramilitary organisations. It only helped to create more support for more violent actions (and let's not forget that this provoked a wave of sympathy in the USA, where funds were raised for IRA terrorist activities). Or is the 'threat' from certain brown-skinned foreigner (and Britons) of a special type? Let's be honest and say we know who specifically these measures will be used against. And it isn't the Catholic nuns living across the street to me.
These measures are being brought in because the government, and especially his predecessor David Blunkett, was humiliated recently by the Law Lords over Britain's own mini-Guantanamo; Belmarsh prison continues to hold people without trial. The Law Lords ruled their imprisonment contravened human rights legislation, and were in any case against the basic principles of civil society; they also ruled they were discriminatory because they targetted foreign nationals only. So, instead of either trying these men in a court of law (for the security forces might have information to charge them), or released (because they are not guilty of a crime), Charles Clarke decides the answer is simply to allow for powers that do not discriminate against foreign nationals: British subjects also 'suspected' of certain activities will be held inside their homes without trial. These measures might include stopping people from using the telephone, the internet or communicating with other people; it might involve tagging individuals and tracking them with sophisticated satellite technology in combination with curfews. And what's more, if a person breaks the house arrest or the curfew, he or she can be imprisoned immediately. What Clarke really seems is to circumvent the Law Lords' criticism of the government, bypass novelties like a trial, a judge and a jury, and allow himself powers to imprison people. What's even more strange is that no other Western country (because only they are 'under threat' from this unique phenomenon) has introduced such measures. Even the US has eschewed ID cards (which didn't prevent bombings in Madrid where ID cards are used), though a public debate rings on about internment (of Muslims, that is).
The dangers of this new move by the Home Secretary are highlighted best by a former diplomat who resigned as a lay member of the Special Immigration Appeal Committee due to the continual detention of people without trial:
It's better than being banged up in Belmarsh, certainly - but it still means depriving a person of his or her liberty who has not been convicted of any offence and who will no longer be able to earn a living, support a family, or lead anything like a normal life. And all without a conviction in a court of law.
Clarke says "trust him". Why should I, or any other citizen in the UK, trust this government given their track record? What if in future another government with even less scruples than this one abuses these powers? I know: slippery slopes don't make for good, reaonsable, arguments. But with the planned introduction of ID cards and now this, it makes you wonder if New Labour isn't desperate to create some Orwellian fantasy (plus we're already the most watched nation in Western Europe thanks to cctv).
In related news, the four Britons released from their incaceration in Guantanamo, were questioned by police and then released without charge. This didn't stop nonsense dribbling out from the US regime, who declared them to be a 'danger'. Then again these are the governments which still push the al-Qa'ida and ready-to-fire-in-45-minutes weapons of mass destruction canards. I hope that, like the others released before them, they sue the US and UK governments as a matter of principle.