The Suspect by Rizwaan Sabir, published by Pluto Books, is the harrowing account of the author’s experiences at the hands of Great Britains’ counter intelligence agencies. However, as Sabir is also a university lecturer studying counter terrorism methods, the book is a carefully researched and careful analysis of how the Muslim community was targeted by those supposedly working to protect society.
Sabir was working on his Phd when he came to the attention of the security services in 2007. He had downloaded an essay entitled the Al Qaeda Training Manual to use as background material for his studies on political extremism. Now, the title might sound suspicious, but he downloaded it from the public web site of the US State Department and it was also freely available through his university’s library system.
Of course all the security services saw was some guy with a Muslim last name had downloaded something which included the words Al Qaeda in it. He even shared it with another guy with a Muslim sounding last name! (Sabir had sent it and other source materials to an academic advisor/mentor)
Instead of doing any basic investigation into the material and its availability the police, Special Branch and everyone else just rounded up Sabir and his mentor. Even when they did investigate the material in question – they asked someone who was more likely to give them the answers they wanted: that the document was of no use to Sabir in his studies.
Even after Sabir was exonerated, and compensated financially by the police for wrongful arrest and imprisonment, he was on watch lists. He was continually pulled over in airports, at UK customs checks, and while driving. After a couple of years of this he began to develop sever mental and psychological problems. He was living that awful joke of your not really paranoid when they are out to get you.
While the first part of the book details Sabir’s treatment at the hands of the security services, he also spends a great deal of time breaking down the system and the philosophies behind their approach to the Muslim community in the wake of 9/11. He shows how the British services utilized a mixture of colonial tactics for dealing with “Native” populations who wouldn’t buckle under to the Empire and out and out racial profiling.
It was almost if you were Muslim you were guilty until proven innocent. Heck if you were brown with a supposedly Muslim sounding name you’d better be able to account for your movements and reading habits for the last ten years. For a system supposedly designed to prevent terror attacks it sure seemed like it was designed to create the atmosphere of hate that fosters the radicalization of people.
Sabir has created a fascinating book recounting his harrowing experiences at the hands of the security services in the United Kingdom. However, he also used his experiences as a spring board to take us deep into the twisted heart of the way those forces work. From how they choose targets for surveillance to how they view the Muslim population of Great Britain in general.
The Suspect does a fine job of not only detailing the draconian methods employed by the security services, but the author’s first hand experiences of coming to their attention. This a frightening eyeopener of a book that reveals just the systemic flaws and racism in the UK’s security services.