Equality and Human Rights Commission 2011
First published Spring 2011
ISBN 978 1 84206 383 5
Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report series The Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report Series publishes research carried out for the Commission by commissioned researchers.
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Contents Tables i
Executive summary v
1. Introduction 1
1.1 Background 1
1.2 Methodology 2
1.3 Structure of this report 3
2. The community, security and policing context 5
2.1 The community context 5
2.2 The security context 9
2.3 The legal and policy context 13
2.4 The policing context 15
2.5 Summary 17
3. Ports and airports 18
3.1 Security measures 18
3.2 Schedule 7 19
3.3 Summary 28
4. On the streets 30
4.1 Powers of stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000 30
4.2 Use of s44 stop and search 31
4.3 Experiences of s44 stop and search 34
4.4 Surveillance cameras 36
4.5 Demonstrations and marches: the English Defence League 38
4.6 Summary 41
5. Neighbourhoods and communities 42
5.1 The local context 42
5.2 Relationships with others 44
5.3 Preventing Violent Extremism 46
5.4 Summary 65
6. Schools, universities and mosques 67
Tables 4.1 Searches of pedestrians, vehicles and occupants under s44 31
7.1 Terrorism-related arrest, charge, prosecution and conviction 75
A1 Profile of focus group participants 100
Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the Equality and Human Rights Commission
for funding the study presented in this report and, in particular, Mary Cunneen,
Liz Speed and John Wadham for their encouragement and support throughout the project. Thanks also to Eric Metcalfe and Dr Basia Spalek for their comments on
an earlier draft of this report. We would also like to express our gratitude to all the individuals who helped organise the focus groups and those who were willing to share their time and experiences through participating in the focus groups and interviews. This report would not have been possible without their generosity and support. Thanks finally, to staff at Durham University, in particular to Christopher Minchella, Julie Platten and Lorraine Parkin.
Foreword One of the most important duties of any government is to protect its citizens. We need safety and security in order to live our lives. The prevention of terrorism is about protecting some of our most basic human rights – a fact which sometimes gets lost in the debate about terror prevention and civil liberties.
The question for any government is how best to provide that protection. Experience from Northern Ireland teaches us that counter-terrorism measures have the potential to stigmatise whole communities, to fuel resentment and even to bolster support for terrorist movements.
There is a danger that Muslims in contemporary Britain may become the new suspect community. Policymakers and operatives are grappling with the old dilemma: it is an inescapable fact that the majority of those suspected of terrorist activities are Muslim, and that counter-terrorism measures are likely to target Muslims. Clearly, however, those measures will be counter-productive if they make ordinary British Muslims, who are of course just as affected by the terrorist threat as anyone else, feel they are constantly under suspicion.
This study, in a small-scale but in-depth way, seeks to explore these issues by giving voice to the experiences of some residents of four cities across Britain: Birmingham, London, Glasgow and Leicester. In a series of focus groups local residents, both Muslim and non-Muslim, were asked about their experiences and perceptions of counter-terrorism measures. We also conducted interviews with local and national policymakers and practitioners.
Some clear messages emerged from the research. There was a strong sense from those participating that Muslims and non-Muslims were living parallel lives, with Muslims much more aware of the impact of counter-terrorism measures than their non-Muslim neighbours. Some Muslim participants had experienced specific measures first hand, while others were simply concerned that such policies were contributing towards a wider hostility towards Muslims.
Among Muslim participants there was also a perception that the government was
not giving enough attention to other very real problems affecting their communities (such as drugs, gangs, unemployment and racism), and simply focusing on
These findings provide a timely snapshot, reminding us of the impact of counter-terrorism measures on the lives of ordinary people. They also raise some cause for concern. Policymakers will only avoid the mistakes of the past if they listen and respond to voices such as those in this report.
Baroness Hussein Ece OBE
Executive summary This report has been commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) to develop and deepen understanding of the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on Muslim communities. There has been concern regarding
the compliance of counter-terrorism laws and policies with human rights, and their potential discriminatory impact on specific communities.1 In Great Britain, counter-terrorism measures are overwhelmingly experienced by Muslims. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 there has been a raft of legislation and policies specifically designed to counter terrorism: many of these have departed from the usual criminal justice
or other policy and practice and have been subject to criticism and concern. Furthermore, the courts have found some measures to be non-compliant with
The need to understand the impact of counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices is critical, as counter-terrorism measures may be counterproductive, especially if
they fail to protect human rights, discriminate, increase repression, or stigmatise
and alienate certain groups. This can undermine the trust and confidence needed
for effective cooperation and may, in itself, bolster the terrorist’s narrative.
This is, primarily, a small scale, in-depth, qualitative study. It examines the experiences of counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices through case studies
of local communities in four areas across Britain: Birmingham, East London, Glasgow and Leicester. In each of these areas four focus groups were held involving local residents (both Muslim and non-Muslim), exploring participants’ experiences and perceptions. In addition, 60 interviews were held with individuals working in the civil society and community organisations, practitioners and officials at the local and national level.
When it comes to experiences of counter-terrorism, Muslims and non-Muslims from the same local areas who participated in this research appear to live ‘parallel lives’. Counter-terrorism measures are contributing to a wider sense among Muslims that they are being treated as a ‘suspect community’ and targeted by authorities simply because of their religion. Many participants, while not referring to specific laws or policies, felt that counter-terrorism law and policy generally was contributing towards hostility to Muslims by treating Muslims as a ‘suspect group’, and creating a climate of fear and suspicion towards them.
A disconnect was identified between the insistence by the state that the primary threat to society is one of international terrorism, and the reality of Muslim communities, where the key threats to society are perceived to be those of drugs, gangs, unemployment, and racist violence.
Muslims in this study had strong perceptions of the impact of counter-terrorism measures on their lives, particularly when those measures seemed to target people on the basis of religion, rather than any form of immediate threat or suspicion.
There was widespread concern about the use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, stop and search, without suspicion at airports, as it affected a cross section of the Muslim population and involved questioning individuals about their religious beliefs and practices. For many young Muslim men on the streets, stop and search under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act (s44) has become their most frequent and regular contact with the police and in one specific area that had been subject to targeted CCTV surveillance, this was raised as the issue of most concern. Such measures were seen to add to perceptions of racial and religious profiling and discrimination.
Varied and diverse experiences of Muslims
The Muslim population in Britain of 2.5 million people is very diverse in terms of its ethnicity, culture, religious practice and adherence, and individuals’ experiences
of counter-terrorism measures differ. Some aspects of the population mean they
are more likely to come into contact with counter-terrorism measures than other communities: Muslims are younger than the general population 60 per cent are below the age of 34; and their concentration in specific neighbourhoods and cities ensures that policing operations and practices in particular local areas have a disproportionate reach into Muslim communities.
The threat from international terrorism
Britain faces a real and serious threat from domestic and international terrorism. Since 2001, 237 people have been convicted for terrorism-related offences, a further 48 individuals have been placed under control orders and 228 individuals have been referred to intervention programmes for those who are deemed to be at risk of violent radicalisation. Government figures indicate that at least 2,000 individuals are of concern to security services. They do not indicate how many are of Muslim background but the security services maintain that their main focus is on Al Qa’ida-inspired international terrorism. However, data from the prison service show that
87 per cent of terrorism related prisoners in Great Britain in 2010 identified themselves as Muslim.
Given the nature of the actual and planned attacks from Al Qa’ida-inspired terrorism in Britain, these numbers reflect a real and grave challenge to the police and
From the perspective of a Muslim population of over 2.5 million, however, these individuals are a tiny and virtually invisible minority. Muslims are told there is a ‘severe’ threat to the UK from international terrorism that they must help prevent and yet, for most in this study, this does not resonate with their everyday experience in their communities. This contributes to a perceived disconnection between state insistence on the primacy of the threat from international terrorism, and communities, where a wider range of social issues drugs, gangs, unemployment and racist violence are identified as posing a more real and concrete threat to society.
This suggests that policy needs to acknowledge that communities’ perceptions of threat are genuine and engage with these in their approach to working with them.
Ports and airports
Stops at airports under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 are having some
of the most significant negative impacts across Muslim communities according to participants in this study. The power can be used to question any person, for up to nine hours, in order to determine if they are involved in terrorism. Crucially, anyone can be stopped; there is no need for ‘reasonable suspicion’ before a person is stopped. It is not possible to have a full picture of the extent to which Schedule 7 has been used in Britain since 2001 because the Home Office published figures for the total number of Schedule 7 examinations for the first time only in 2010. This revealed that 85,557 examinations took place in ports in Great Britain in 2009/10; of these 2,687 lasted for more than one hour (Home Office, 2010: 40). Between 2001 and 2009, 13,272 Schedule 7 examinations lasting over one hour were made. The impact is felt by the individuals who are stopped, and also by those friends and family members travelling with them or awaiting their arrival. For some Muslims, these stops have become a routine part of their travel experience, whereas non-Muslim focus group participants had no experience of Schedule 7 stops. Officials said that it plays an important role in deterrence, as well as providing a means for gathering information and recruiting informants.
The perception that Schedule 7 stops are based on religious profiling was reinforced by the questions posed to passengers. Individuals report being asked the number of times a day they pray, the names of mosques they attend, their understanding of the term jihad, their knowledge of Muslim community groups and organisations. Such questions intensified anger about Schedule 7 stops. The interviews suggested that this power is silently eroding Muslim communities’ trust and confidence in policing. Although government officials and police officers are aware of the impact it is having, Schedule 7 was not part of the government’s recent review of counter-terrorism and security powers. The evidence from this research suggests there should be a review of the use of Schedule 7, and continued publication of data on the actual number of stops and examinations.
On the street
Since 2001, there have been over half a million stop and searches in the streets using s44 of the Terrorism Act, but they have not led to any convictions in relation
to terrorism. For many Muslims in the research, particularly young men, being stopped and searched in the streets, whether under s44 or other policing powers, has become their most frequent and regular contact with the police. For some,
the frequency with which they are being stopped or observing others being stopped contributes to a sense of alienation and fuels perceptions of racial and religious discrimination. These dangers were recognised by police officers and policymakers. Interviewees referred to s44 as a ‘blunt tool’ and one that risks damaging community relations because, where it is used, it is often carried out by the least experienced officers. While the extent of its use by some police forces was criticised, practitioners argued that it was an important tool in specific circumstances.
The use of surveillance cameras was a major issue in Birmingham where, under project Champion, the police placed a net of cameras around several areas with large Muslim populations. The measure was criticised for collectively stigmatising and targeting Muslims in these areas. The lack of transparency and the failure to consult and take the views of local communities into account was also a key criticism. Anger over the surveillance cameras was particularly intense among individuals from community organisations that had been working closely with the police in the area of counter-terrorism. They felt it undermined the trust and confidence carefully developed over several years.
Counter-terrorism policymakers and practitioners are having to consider the impact
of English Defence League (EDL) marches as, increasingly, this is the most direct manifestation of violent extremism many Muslims experience in their areas. Where there is consultation with local communities, research participants stated that policing around EDL marches can, in fact, provide an opportunity for building positive relationships across groups and communities in a city and strengthen cohesion
and resilience to extremism.
Communities and neighbourhoods
The relationship and context that exist in local areas shapes the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on Muslim communities. Research participants reported that areas where good relationships between local authorities and a broad range of Muslim civil society groups were developed prior to 2001 were in a better position
to meet the challenges that arose after 9/11.
Participants felt that Muslims have faced far greater hostility since 2001, in the form of verbal and sometimes physical abuse. Most felt this is because Muslims, as a group, are seen as responsible for the actions of terrorists, with hostility greatest after a terrorist attack or incident. However, there is also some hostility from the political and media debates around the enactment of new counter-terrorism laws and policies.
The Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE or Prevent) programme was a
considerable area of concern in interviews with those who work in Muslim
community organisations and civil society, but hardly featured in the focus groups; where only a few Muslim participants had heard of Prevent, non-Muslims had
not come across it. Interviews with policymakers and practitioners emphasise the extent to which PVE was an entirely new area of policy without any benchmarks
and templates to follow and learning has, necessarily, had to be through trial and error. The targeting of funding to Muslim communities under PVE, particularly where it was directed at capacity-building and community cohesion, contributed towards a sense among Muslims in this study of being treated as a ‘suspect community’ and generating resentment from other communities, thereby undermining cohesion. Others felt that PVE was leading communities to misrepresent their activities and to exaggerate the threat in order to secure funding. In some areas, PVE was thought
to be undermined by the lack of transparency around allocation of funding to groups. There was also concern about the lack of focus and clarity around the nature and scope of the programme.
Schools, universities and mosques
Schools, universities and mosques, as spaces where young people explore ideas
as well as develop their sense of identity and belonging, have come within the scope of counter-terrorism polices. There is greater awareness in all three about their role and contribution in addressing violence and extremism. The actions of police and security services have led some student Islamic societies to feel that they are under close watch.
Mosques are responding to the agenda around counter-terrorism in a variety of ways. Some are active in directly addressing issues of extremism and terrorism; others focus on developing their governance structures and skills of their imams to ensure that they communicate and connect more effectively with young Muslims. However, a few mosques do not engage with issues around counter-terrorism. Some imams feel that they lack the skills or training for this task but for others, this reflects a sincere belief that mosques should focus on the spiritual needs of their congregation and steer clear of any political issues.
Families and homes
Since 2001 there have been 1,834 terrorism-related arrests in Britain. Over three-quarters of those arrested are released without charge and only 13 per cent have been convicted of any terrorism-related offences. In those areas where there were
a significant number of arrests, awareness and knowledge of these were high and a cause of concern raised by Muslim focus group participants. Non-Muslim focus group participants from these same local areas tended to have less knowledge of the arrests, and did not feel that they had any impact on them.
The fact that the majority of those who are arrested are innocent made many Muslims in this study feel that they too are vulnerable to being caught up in this way. Anxieties are exacerbated by a lack of understanding of key aspects of the judicial process, including the length of pre-charge detention, and the processes of charging individuals. Careful planning and consideration of various needs, particularly those of family members affected by a raid, are seen as important in communities. In general, given that the majority of arrests do not lead to a charge, efforts directed at ensuring low-key arrests with minimal publicity were viewed positively. Evidence suggests that local authorities have a critical role to play in containing the fallout from arrests and raids in their areas.
Counter-terrorism laws and practices are not experienced in isolation but do contribute to a wider sense among Muslims who participated in this study, of being treated as a ‘suspect community’. Some Muslims are responding to this through greater engagement and in challenging the misperceptions about them. But many more report feeling increasingly alienated and isolated, with raised levels of anxiety and vulnerability. Some measures, in practice, specifically target Muslim communities and, as the courts have shown, may breach human rights and equality laws. They also run the risk of undermining trust and confidence in the police and security services. Furthermore, for the communities in this research, their experience of counter-terrorism measures highlights the disconnect between the level of importance given to key social issues within those communities and the emphasis
on terrorism, and the attention these receive by law and policymakers.
1. Introduction 1.1 Background The need to understand the impact of counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices on community cohesion, equality and human rights is critical. Concerns have been raised that counter-terrorism laws and policies are increasingly alienating Muslims, especially young people and students, and that counter-terrorism measures may themselves feed and sustain terrorism2. This report has been commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) to develop and deepen understanding of the impact of counter-terrorism legislation and policies in general, and on Muslim communities in particular. Building on existing studies, this report contributes to the research and wider public discussion through an examination of the experiences of counter-terrorism legislation and policies on Muslim communities in four local areas across Britain and interviews with practitioners and officials at
a national and local level. This is, therefore, primarily a small-scale, in-depth, qualitative study.
Previous research suggests that counter-terrorism policies and practices may create a well of sympathy and silence among sections of society, especially if they increase repression, or stigmatise and alienate these groups (Silke, 2005). Studies show that Al Qa’ida and organisations closely linked to violent extremism operating in Western Europe use discrimination and the social and political marginalisation of Muslims as part of their narrative for recruiting people to violence (Wiktorowicz, 2005). The United Kingdom’s own experience in Northern Ireland provides significant evidence of the potential ways in which counter-terrorism measures can be counterproductive (Campbell and Connelly, 2008; Hillyard, 1993, 2005; McEvoy, 2001; Sluka, 1989).
In June 2008, the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, made a commitment to review the impact of counter-terrorism legislation on communities in the UK.3 A government review of the existing research base on perceptions of the impact of legislation identified a number of studies, both qualitative and quantitative, that address aspects of this issue, focusing in particular on perceptions of discrimination, human rights and confidence in public bodies. It noted a number of polls and studies which suggest a perception among UK Muslim populations that counter-terrorism laws are applied in an unfair or discriminatory manner. However, it concludes that few firm conclusions can be drawn from the existing research about the perceptions of the impact of counter-terrorism law due to the limitations of the methodology of these studies (DSTL, 2010).
In understanding the impact of counter-terrorism laws on Muslim communities
today, parallels are inevitably drawn with the earlier experiences of Irish Catholic communities in Britain and Northern Ireland (Nickels et al., 2008; Peirce, 2008; McGovern, 2010). One starting point for research that seeks to compare the experiences of the two communities is Paddy Hillyard’s 1993 study of the impact
of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act (PTA) 1974 on Irish communities in Britain. Hillyard noted aspects of the legal and policy framework that contributed to the treatment of Irish communities in Britain as ‘suspect communities’. This included: the broad scope of offences and powers created under the PTA; the disproportionate use and focus of anti-terrorism legislation and policy on members of one community; the use of police powers for gathering intelligence and information; and the treatment of terrorism and terrorist suspects as distinct from other crimes
and criminal offenders through the creation of different rules and procedures of questioning and detention. Using Hillyard as their starting point, Pantazis and Pemberton (2009) have argued that Muslims are the new ‘suspect community’. Others, however, suggest that the diversity of Muslims in Britain makes it difficult
to talk about the experiences of some Muslims as amounting to treatment
of all Muslims as a ‘suspect community’ (Greer, 2010). Reflecting the need for an analysis of the differentiated impact of counter-terrorism across diverse Muslim communities, some researchers have focused on the experiences of particular sections and minorities, including Salafi and Islamist groups (Lambert, 2008) and Pakistani Muslim communities (Mythen et al., 2009).
The impacts of a range of specific counter-terrorism laws, policies and practices
have also been explored. This includes the use of police stop and search powers (Human Rights Watch, 2010), the Preventing Violent Extremism policy (Kundnani, 2009; Innes et al., 2011), control orders (Brittain, 2008) and regulations directed at the financing and funding of terrorism (de Goede, 2003; Amoore and De Goede, 2005; McCulloch and Pickering, 2005; Quigley and Pratten, 2007). There appears to be less attention and focus on the impact of other aspects of counter-terrorism law and policy such as stops at ports and airports, arrests and pre-charge detention, indirect incitement and banning of organisations.