Monday, August 21, 2006

A new offence: ‘Travelling while Asian’

The removal of two men of "Middle Eastern or Asian appearance" from a holiday flight because other passengers feared they were terrorists, reinforces two points: the government’s populist policies are counter-productive and dangerous, while terrorism itself divides communities and strengthens the state.

Two young men were removed from a flight to Manchester from Malaga, Spain, after passengers became suspicious of their behaviour. Other passengers refused to fly unless the two were removed on Monarch Airlines flight ZB613. Muslim MP Khalid Mahmood described the incident as "hugely irrational". "People need to get their senses back into order. You can't just accuse anybody who's of Asian appearance and treat them like a terrorist," said the Labour MP for Birmingham. "If somebody is threatening anybody it's understandable, but when they are just travelling for their own needs it's not. People just need to calm down."

What the MP omitted to do was to hold his own government responsible for the hue and cry against Muslims. New Labour has demonised the Muslim community in its "war on terror". Ministers hold the Muslim community as a whole responsible for any would-be suicide bombers in their midst. They refuse to acknowledge any linkage between their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the targeting of Britain by Islamic-inspired terrorists.

The hysteria whipped up at airports following the alleged thwarting of a "terror plot" has heightened the tension between communities. Now there is open talk of racial profiling to identify potential terrorists at airports, or as one senior Asian policeman called it, a new offence of "travelling while Asian". How much longer before British-born Muslims have to wear armbands? In this fevered atmosphere, is anyone surprised by the panic on the Monarch flight?
Terrorism, whether inspired by Islam or not, plays into the hands of governments like New Labour. The state assumes new powers, divides communities and thrives in a state of artificially-heightened tension. Secret spy agencies like MI5 vastly increase their budgets and spy on whole communities. Uniting communities against the government and the state means that we need a secular alternative – both to the New Labour regime and the path of terror.

Paul Feldman, communications editor

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