Because we can't have these brown folks reading, now can we?

This May, Rizwaan Sabir, a postgraduate student in international relations at the University of Nottingham was detained for almost a week without charges. He has an excellent op-ed in The Guardian about his experience:
After failing to find justification to detain me any longer, on day six of our ordeal, I was released without a charge, without an apology; but with a police warning against accessing an openly available, widely cited al-Qaida document considered relevant to my postgraduate research by me and my academic supervisors. I was only put under threat of future arrest, but Hicham's terrifying detention was prolonged by the authorities, under immigration charges – his ordeal continues to this very day.

What was our offence?

Our offence was that we had in our possession an edited version of a document referred to as the "al-Qaida training manual". A document freely available on the US Department of Justice website and that of the Federation of American Scientists. A document widely available elsewhere on official and unofficial internet sites, in either edited or full versions. A document purchasable in paperback from Amazon. A document I had downloaded months ago for my masters dissertation and upcoming PhD. A document a lecturer knew I was consulting. A document I had sent months ago to Hicham who was helping me draft my PhD proposal. A document many other academics and students studying terrorism will have had in their possession. A document extensively cited in books on terrorism. A bog-standard source. Nothing extraordinary or remarkable about its possession – one would think.
His fellow arestee, Hicham Yezza, is still facing deportation over the same phony outrage. Here is his op-ed on his experiences:
'm constantly coming across efforts being made to give detention without charge the Walt Disney treatment: the crushing weight of solitary confinement is painted as a non-issue; the soul-sapping nothingness of the claustrophobic, cold cell is portrayed as a mild inconvenience. Make no mistake: the feeling that one's fate is in the hands of the very people who are apparently trying to convict you is, without doubt, one of the most devastating horrors a human being can ever be subjected to. It is (to misquote Carl von Clausewitz) the continuation of torture by other means.

"Those who have nothing to hide, have nothing to fear," goes the tautological reasoning of the paranoia merchants calling for harsher, ever more draconian "security" measures - as we saw throughout the 42-days debate. They should read Kafka: nothing is more terrifying than being arrested for something you know you haven't done. Indeed, it is the innocent who suffers the most because it is the innocent who is tormented the most. The guilty calculates, triangulates, anticipates. The innocent doesn't know where to start. The answers and the questions are absolute, unbreachable, towering conundrums.

I underwent 20 hours of vigorous interrogation while entire days were being completely wasted by the police micro-examining every detail of my life: my political activism, my writings, my work in theatre and dance, my love life, my photography, my cartooning, my magazine subscriptions, my bus tickets.

Aspects of my life that would have been seen as commendable in others were suddenly viewed as suspect in my case for no apparent reason other than my religious and ethnic background. I was guilty of being that strangest of creatures: a Muslim who reads; who studied engineering yet writes about Bob Dylan; was a vocal opponent of the Iraq war yet owns all of Christopher Hitchens' writings; admires Terry Eagleton yet defends Martin Amis; interviews Kazuo Ishiguro, listens to Leonard Cohen, goes to Radiohead concerts, all of which became the subject of rather bizarre questioning.

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Blogger Mikkel said...

The moral of the story: Better to be guilty than innocent.

September 19, 2008 6:23 pm  
Blogger mrtn said...

Actually, that IS the moral of the story. That's the moral of the story every single time some idiotic racist security theatre grabs another brown person for being just a little bit not normal.

September 19, 2008 6:38 pm  
Blogger suttonhoo said...

going on five minutes of sitting here stupefied and enraged with the comments box open WANTING TO SAY SOMETHING THAT CAPTURES THIS FEELING.


September 20, 2008 5:04 am  

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