Surveillance of young British Muslims by parents and police seeking to counter radicalisation is “McCarthyite” and a “danger to everybody,” campaigners warned yesterday.
The comments come after Britain’s most senior Muslim policeman said that “private space” should be scrutinised for signs exhibited by children as young as five.
Metropolitan Police commander Mak Chishty claimed on Sunday that criticising Marks & Spencer — sometimes thought to be Jewish-owned — giving up alcohol, choosing un-Western clothes and referring to the celebration of Christmas as “haram” — meaning “forbidden in Islam” — were all factors to watch for.
He told the Guardian: “We need to be less precious about the private space. This is not about us invading private thoughts, but acknowledging that it is in these private spaces where this [extremism] first germinates.”
Private space is “anything from walking down the road, looking at a mobile, someone in a bedroom surfing the net, to someone in a shisha cafe talking about things,” he said.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) secretary Weyman Bennett criticised the call for officials and families to spy on young people as “an outrageous and reprehensible step.”
“Civil liberties are being attacked and the development of the McCarthyite system of surveillance is a danger to everybody,” he said.
“When pushing fear to a whole community, it legitimises Islamophobia and surveillance is a lazy way of dealing with complicated issues. The key is not to isolate people.”
He also referred to Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik, who killed eight people by blowing up government buildings and shot dead another 69 at a youth camp in 2011.
He would not have been subjected to such breaches of privacy as he is not Muslim, Mr Bennett said.
Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “This not sensible, at all. To use surveillance powers you cannot target religious or ethnic groups.”