It’s clear what’s happened to Muslims in the West – they’re the new enemies of the state, the one’s we’re taught to fear. We’re told that they’re not integrating, and that some of them are radicalizing “homegrown” terrorists. There’s a constant drumbeat of updates from the police and intelligence services about this foiled attack on the subway, or that thwarted bombing of a synagogue; these plots might have been the very invention of the police or the FBI, but they leave still us in a perpetual sense of danger. Soon, we start to notice that “they” are filling our streets with niqabs and burqas... “they” have the audacity to build minarets on mosques and pray outside… “they” might even be forcing us to… eat halal meat! Eventually, we nod our heads in agreement when our elected officials and neighbours tell us that “they” want to put Shariah law in place, and force the rest of us to submit to their “Islamic extremism”. But phew, it’s okay, because our governments have passed laws to ensure that our way of life is protected. Our fear of terrorism is heightened and distended into hysteria around the burgeoning “threat” of Islam. No wonder the virulently Islamaphobic far-right is gaining traction across Europe.
But our paranoia about terrorism and Islam, isn’t just (just?) curbing the civil liberties of Muslims. As our blithe acceptance of several news stories in the past few weeks demonstrates, we have effectively been terrorized into submission. The War on Terror has produced a War on Protest, which has in turn sanctioned the very militarization of our streets.
Tens of thousands of people descend upon Chicago this weekend to protest the upcoming NATO summit. A new ordinance requires organizers of “large parades” and street protests to take out $1 million liability insurance before they can get a permit, and register all banners and sound equipment with the police. The Chicago police have spent about $1 million on new riot gear, probably to protect themselves from the ever-dangerous clown bloc, and installed thousands of new surveillance cameras in preparation. Notably, the Chicago police have confirmed that a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) will be ready for use at the main protest on 20 May. The LRAD emits sound at a volume that can cause permanent damage to the human ear; it was used several years ago by the Georgian police when they cracked down on opposition protesters, in addition to water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets. (At the time, one special weapons expert interviewed by Russia Today commented, “These are inhumane means of crowd control… a democratic country could never use them against peaceful demonstrators”.) Hundreds of National Guard troops will be deployed during the NATO summit, and in recent days some people have even spotted unmanned drones flying above the city. Strangely enough, given NATO’s intervention in Libya, Homeland Security advisers could even jam phone networks, disrupting protests’ efforts to coordinate their actions all in the name of public safety – because you never know just when those terrorists might strike. If you want to learn more about how the city has manipulated the fear of a terrorist attack in order to engage in repression against protesters, read this terrifying article entitled, “Chicago gears up for NATO summit: This is what a police state looks like”.
But it’s not just the United States. Londoners – we’re in the same boat. There are startling parallels between the tactics being used this weekend in Chicago, and those that will be employed during the upcoming Olympics. Crackdown on legitimate protest? Well, one member of Occupy London who protested peacefully against the building of a practice basketball court in London, has been handed an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO), effectively threatening him with a 5 year prison sentence if he comes within 100 yards of an Olympic site or the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Olympics minister Hugh Robertson has also encouraged Londoners to watch their neighbours, and come forward to inform on anyone who might want to disrupt the Games. But it doesn’t stop there. Upgraded surveillance powers – including a £500,000 CCTV "Olympic revamp"? Check. We’ll also have an LRAD on the Thames, unmanned drones flying over the city, 13,500 troops on the ground and as many as 48,000 private security guards. Don’t forget the “scanners, biometric ID cards, number-plate and facial-recognition CCTV systems, disease tracking systems, new police control centres and checkpoints” that will monitor our movement through the city. Some lucky east Londoners will be lucky enough to have missiles placed on their roofs during the Olympics, and military snipers will be deployed in helicopters to fly above the city… Why? To protect us from potential terrorists attack, of course.
Muslims might be the scapegoat of the impending police state, but we’re certainly all its victims.