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UK uses "Orwellian" tactics on Muslims: report

Become informants or go to jail, MI5 tells Muslim men

Published:

Five British Muslim men accused the United Kingdom's security services of "blatant blackmail" and threatening them with jail if they did not agree to work as informants, press reports said Thursday, sparking outrage and concern over Islamophobia.

The community workers said they were given a choice of working for MI5, the U.K.'s counter-intelligence and security agency, or face detention and harassment at home and internationally, Britain's Independent reported.

"Orwellian society"

The men, three of whom said they were detained at foreign airports on MI5 orders, made official complaints to the police, the body which oversees the work of the security service and their local MP Frank Dobson, the paper said.

"The only thing these young people have in common is that they studied Arabic abroad and are of Somali origin. They are not involved in any terrorist activity whatsoever, nor have they ever been and the security services are well aware of this," said Sharhabeel Lone, the chairman of Kentish Town Community Organization, where the men work with disadvantaged youth.

"These incidents smack of racism, Islamophobia and all that undermines social cohesion," the paper quoted Lone as saying. "When people are terrorized by the very same body that is meant to protect them, sowing fear, suspicion and division, we are on a slippery slope to an Orwellian society."

Meanwhile MP Dobson seemed less sympathetic and expalained: "To identify real suspects from the Muslim communities MI5 must use informers. But it seems that from what I have seen some of their methods may be counter-productive."

When people are terrorized by the very same body that is meant to protect them, sowing fear, suspicion and division, we are on a slippery slope to an Orwellian society.

Sharhabeel Lone

Disguised as postmen

Although none of the men have ever been arrested or charged with terrorism-related offenses they all claim to have been harrassed, threatened and intimidated by the security services at one point.

Two of the men, Mohamed Nur and Mohamed Aden, said they were approached by police officers disguised as postmen, who came to their homes to tell them if they did not help the security services they would be considered terrorism suspects.

Nur, 25, a community youth worker, said he was threatened after an agent infiltrated his home accompanied by a police officer dressed as a postman.

"The MI5 agent said, 'Mohamed if you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you try to travel to that you are a suspected terrorist,'" the paper quoted him as saying.

Adydarus Elmi, a 25-year-old cinema worker, said an agent named Katherine called him at 7 a.m. and tried to intimidate him by congratulating him on the birth of his baby girl, although his wife was still seven months pregnant.

"Katherine tried to threaten me by saying, and it still runs through my mind now: 'Remember, this won't be the last time we ever meet.' And then during our last conversation she explained: 'If you do not want anything to happen to your family you will co-operate,'" the paper quoted Elmi as saying.

Katherine tried to threaten me by saying, and it still runs through my mind now: 'Remember, this won't be the last time we ever meet.' And then during our last conversation she explained: 'If you do not want anything to happen to your family you will co-operate,'

An alleged MI5 threat

Top priority

Madhi Hashi, 19, said he was on his way to Djibouti to visit his sick grandmother when two agents approached him at Gatwick airport and warned him not to get on the plane and told him "we cannot help you outside of the U.K."

Hashi said he was then arrested at Djibouti airport on the orders of MI5 and held for 16 hours. Hashi said he was told he would be put on a list of terror suspects unless he was willing to work as an informant and trap his friends by encouraging them to talk about jihad.

"I told him 'This is blatant blackmail'; he said 'No, it's just proving your innocence. By co-operating with us we know you're not guilty,'" Hashi told the paper.

The paper said MI5 refused to discuss the complaints but posted a statement on its website saying: "We do not investigate any individuals on the grounds of ethnicity or religious beliefs. Countering the threat from international terrorists, including those who claim to be acting for Islam, is the Security Service's highest priority."

I told him 'This is blatant blackmail'; he said 'No, it's just proving your innocence. By co-operating with us we know you're not guilty

Hashi told the paper