Now that we’re all supposedly involved in the world battle against the worst enemy since Hitler – not climate change, of course, but Isis – it’s time to understand just how the forces of law, order and security, who are supposed to protect us, can do more to recruit European Muslims to the Islamist cause than all the Isis videos combined.
It’s a tale of how policemen, through ignorance and racism, provoked Isis into sending sneering messages to a young man who probably does more to prevent “terror” on the streets of Brussels than anyone else.
Montasser al-De’emeh is a Palestinian academic and writer, a Belgian citizen and specialist in that one subject of which all policemen now regard themselves as experts: “radicalised” or “home grown” Isis “terrorists”.
He runs a centre for returning “radicals” to try to wean them from their obsession with the Isis cult – important work in Belgium which has sent 350 fighters to Syria per capita, more than any other European nation – and has co-written a highly-acclaimed book on Isis called The Jihad Caravan: A Journey to the Roots of Hatred.
Al-De’emeh is well known in Belgium. He has been filmed by television crews as he journeys around Brussels, interviewed by the Washington Post and by Belgian media. And he was driving home after addressing Flemish Belgian parliamentarians last week when he was pulled over by the police.
No problem, for al-De’emeh is just the kind of chap that we need to keep ourselves safe in these dangerous days of Isis massacres and school prefect speeches by the likes of Hilary Benn.
Or so you would have thought.
According to al-De’emeh, he was returning home to Molenbeek (the same Molenbeek now regarded as a “breeding ground” for “Isis terror”) when he was stopped at a police checkpoint. He thought this normal; the Paris attacks had occurred only two weeks earlier and Belgium existed under a “state of emergency”.
“The policemen asked for my papers,” al-De’emeh tells me. “I gave them no problem. Then they asked how many languages I spoke. I said Dutch, French, English and Arabic. And one of them said: “Here in Belgium, we don’t like you to speak Arabic”. They were not nice. They asked what was in my car and they checked everything and came across copies of my book, The Jihad Caravan. A policeman said: “Here in Belgium we don’t allow you to have this book in your car – we don’t have ‘jihad’ in Belgium”. They told me to get out of my car, put my hands on the roof. They asked for the password of my phone which I didn’t give them. Then they opened my phone, took my SIM card, wrote down some numbers and gave it back. They went through all my papers and threw them in the car, some of them falling on the road.”
Al-De’emeh was outraged and complained to the police. “I had just been giving a speech about radicalisation to Parliament. I run a centre to help people get rid of this Isis thing. For two years, I’ve been doing this. I try to de-radicalise these people. But Isis want things like this to happen. They want the police to threaten Muslims and if the police behave like this, they are hindering our work and helping Isis.”
The local police tried to explain away this little mishap. “People” had been filming police and army posts from al-De’emeh’s car – presumably the film crew following his work – and al-De’emeh had “incited bystanders against the police”, which is an offence under Belgian law.
Much worse was to come. Al-De’emeh began receiving messages from Isis itself.
“They were laughing at me,” he says. “They wrote that now I would see what happened when people opposed Isis. One wrote: ‘What’s up? Having problems, are you?’ Isis was very pleased this had happened to me. They want things like this to happen to Muslims. They want the police to fight Muslims. They want a war between European Muslims and the people.”
The ironies of all this are all too obvious. The Belgian cops should have been reading al-De’emeh’s book, not condemning him for having copies of it in his car. They should have been learning from him, not abusing him. But once you tell people that they are living in fear; once you have a “state of emergency”, all the normal rules of society are chucked out.
And I did wonder, watching our own Parliament’s grotesque debate on Syrian airstrikes last week (which had more to do with the destruction of Corbyn than the destruction of Isis), what the future holds for Britain.
Another attack in London, which our masters now seem to regard as inevitable retaliation for the extension of our puny anti-Isis war to Syria? And if so, new special legislation to assist the security authorities over and above telephone tapping and digital tracing already passed into law?
And after Dave’s victory, did you notice how his rhetoric changed? First the urgency of the debate, so we could cut off “the head of the snake” – a phrase last used by the Saudis against Iran – and then a sudden call for patience. After all this rush to vote, the war “would take time”. Is this what our values are all about?
Indeed, whenever we claim that our values are being attacked we always seem to do damage to those very same values. Which, as al-De’emeh says, is just what Isis wants.
All this we risk, so that Dave can send his “few” into the Battle of Syria and Hilary Benn can vaunt his credentials against “Fascism”. Yup, we’ve all got the message.