The CTS Bill
There have been a huge number of rumours circulating in our communities about the forthcoming Counter Terrorism & Security (CTS) Bill, most of which appear to be entirely untrue, unfounded and designed to spread fear. You have to wonder why groups would purposefully instil fear in the communities they claim to represent at a time when we should be united in standing together against extremism and division.
The UK Government is clear that all forms of extremism and terrorism are unacceptable and must be challenged; where extremists are recruiting new followers to their causes they must stopped and those who are most vulnerable (usually the young) should be protected, supported and safeguarded. This applies to far right extremism, white supremacists, those inspired by Al Qaida / ISIL, Babbar Khalsa International, even Animal Rights. These are just a few of the groups known to have recruited people to commit acts of violence and terrorism.
Here are some of the common myths that are ‘doing the rounds’ on WhatsApp, Twitter and other social networking platforms:
Myth: If you pray five times a day or wear a hijab you will be arrested
To be clear, freedom of religion is protected in the UK by Article 9 of the European Commission on Human Rights (ECHR). The inference of this bizarre rumour is that religious orthodoxy will be viewed as ‘extremism’; in fact, the UK definition of extremism states that it is those who are actively intolerant of different faiths and beliefs that might be viewed as extreme (such as far right groups). Here is the full text of Article 9:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.
Myth: Have you ever felt anxious in class? You could be a potential terrorist under this new bill
Schools have a duty to safeguard all pupils in their care – whether it is from hate crimes, bullying, discrimination and so on. Exposure to extremist content, particularly via the internet, is sadly inevitable in today’s digital age so now we must also safeguard our children from these influences. Those who show signs of exposure to these ideologies which encourage violence or promote terrorism should be protected and safeguarded in the same way we would safeguard any child who was exposed to abusive or violent behaviour.
Myth: If you disagree with foreign policy you will be called a terrorist
Everyone has the right to disagree with any Govt. policy. We also have the right to protest, demonstrate and use democratic processes to change or influence policy. We do not, however, have the right to commit, incite or encourage acts of violence because we disagree with a particular policy, foreign or domestic. The definition of extremism includes “calling for the deaths of members of our armed forces”; disagreeing with a policy is very different from demanding that British citizens be murdered.
Myth: Councils, schools, universities will be made to spy on Muslims by law
Statutory bodies such as councils, schools and universities will have a legal duty to safeguard people from radicalisation. They already have a safeguarding duty to protect against other forms of harm; this ensures that the harm of being groomed for terrorism is included in their safeguarding policy. This applies to all forms of extremism and not to any particular faith, nationality, age, gender etc.
Myth: The bill will allow people being criminalised for their thoughts and beliefs
Article 9 of the ECHR (see above) also applies here: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
This is about safeguarding those who are most vulnerable to being radicalised, most often because of psychological factors that create vulnerability, and most often the younger members of our communities. A person’s thoughts are entirely their own; however, actively inciting violence against others because of a personal view is not acceptable. Similarly we would not want others to incite violence against us.
Myth: Any evidence or trial against you will be conducted in a secret court, where you or your lawyer will not be present
This does not happen in normal criminal trials (most of which any member of the public can attend), and only applies to a few people who may be on trial for involvement in the most serious terrorism crimes and only to very specific pieces of information within that trial that should not be made public; it is designed to stop information that can damage national security, and therefore place the public at greater risk of harm, from being disclosed. For example, one of the tactics of the IRA was to scrutinise public court documents so they could discover how their members had been found out and how their plots had been disrupted. This not only placed families at high risk of revenge attacks, but allowed the IRA to alter their methods to avoid future detection and continue their campaign of terrorism.
Myth: You could be effectively made stateless for 2 years on the basis of mere suspicion
The scare tactic here is the use of the words “mere suspicion”. In reality, the threshold for exclusion from the UK would have to be exceptionally high; in fact there would have to be an overwhelming wealth of information suggesting involvement with terrorist groups overseas for this to even be considered.