Category: Interviews


Roshan Muhammad Salih Born and spent early years in Sri Lanka, of Sri Lankan/British heritage. Lived in north Wales until A levels. Went to University in Staffordshire and Exeter with a year’s break in France. Sort of fell into teaching for a couple of years in a rough inner city school. Then retrained as a journalist, moving into local newspapers, then TV with Granada, Aljazeera (in the Middle East), Islam Channel and most recently Press TV. Now working as an independent documentary-maker. Specialism in global Muslim affairs.

He is working on a documentary looking at the MI5 and spying in the UK Muslim Community which will be available on press tv very soon so check http://www.presstv.com for more information. People can search for him on Facebook for more information about exact broadcast date. He will also put the documentary on youtube. Roshan can be contacted on roshan@newsanew.tv for more information.

Can you tell us more information about the documentary that your working for, especially the issue of spying in the muslim community?

Ah yeh, ok so this documentary, I’m an independent documentary maker , I’ve sold this documentary to press tv so it will broadcast on press tv in the next weeks or months at the latest they haven’t put across a date but I’ll keep you in touch with that. The idea of the documentary in a nutshell is that huge resources is being thrown at the terrorism threat or the so-called terrorism threat by the government and the community that they’re monitoring more than any other is overwhelmingly the Muslim community. And they are doing this in the name of national security to catch so called terrorists. Now the tactics they are using is ultimately very direct, they’re placing bugs in mosques , placing bugs in restaurants, in offices, they are monitoring young people, they’re monitoring community leaders, they’re monitoring women especially, they’re monitoring Somali youth, people in schools, colleges, universities because they think that these are the guys that are most likely to turn in to terrorists so in the one hand they’re monitoring the community quite intensively they’re also trying to recruit people from the community to become spies because what they need is information and access and they haven’t got that so who’s got it? Muslims have got it so they are trying desperately to get muslims to spy on their behalf. And they’re doing this with some success I’d say aswell. Other tactics they’re using currently they’re employing undercover police officers in the community especially converts, you know people who pretend to convert to islam and then very soon afterwards they start asking questions about what do you think about jihad? What do you think about Afghanistan? Iraq and lets do something and kind of encourage people to maybe say things they shouldn’t say and all the while they’re wearing recording devices and they’re filming whats going on and so you have this element of entrapment aswell and the basic premise of the documentary is that I think the government is not going after terrorists, I think we would all support them if they were genuinely going after terrorists but they’re targeting the whole community.

Did you encounter any obstacles while filming your documentary and if so, can you give us any specific examples?

Ah yeah I mean the police and the MI5 are completely uncooperative you know they don’t want anyone making any documentaries on any of this serious stuff or ask any serious questions so they didn’t give me any interviews they didn’t give me any help and you know, infact, I wouldn’t say that they were obstructive because they know if they were that would probably give me more reason to publicise what they are doing because they know I’m the kind of guy who would just go public straight away. But you know they turned down all our interviews so in terms of the police and MI5 there was no luck from them no cooperation from them whatsoever. Muslims I think are scared aswell I mean a lot of people approached me personally and said “I’m really glad you’re doing this, no one’s doing it and heres a lead follow this up” but they wouldn’t do it on camera, they wouldn’t go on camera especially even though they supported what I was doing and were encouraging me and giving me leads off the record and I just think they are very scared of what the security services can do because the security services are complete, they can get away with whatever they want here they’re completely untouchable you cant make a complaints against them and they can destroy your life ultimately so you know muslims are scared. On the other hand a lot of muslims who have been subjected to MI5 surveillance themselves did go on camera and these were the brave ones who ultimately said something needs to be done about it so it was kind of a mixed reception from the community itself I think I got here

From your experience would you say that there is a difference between someone who is an informant and organisations who act as partners with the police so for example if I can just break it down you know the Muslim Contact Unit has partner organisations that it works with so would you say that there is a fundamental difference between that relationship and the relationship between that of an informant and informer?

I’m actually looking at the Muslim Contact unit now, are you referring to specific groups or….

Yeh they work with specific muslim youth groups, muslim organisations that want to integrate young muslims back in to society however they because of this relationship between them and the police they can be seen by people as informers

I mean the Muslim Contact Unit if I remember correctly Bob lambert founded it wasn’t it, do you know about Bob Lambert?

Yes I do know

So basically he was a former spy and he kind of preyed of environmental groups and he had relations with women in thoese groups and had children and abandoned them, you know an inherently untrustworthy character and yet he made his way in to the muslim community unfortunately muslims seem to have taken him to their heart aswell. I mean I’m generally I would say in an an answer to your question I think there is overt spying going on and covert spying. I think any muslim organisation which takes money from government and any muslim organisation which has close ties with government and police, atleast we have the right to be suspicious and I think that as I said the governments needs access in to the community and if these people are taking money from the government that means that they are beholden to the government to a certain extent because theres no such thing as a free lunch in this life I’m afraid. So theres an overt kind of kind of spying going on where they probably pass on information I’m sure they do. I think then theres covert spying where you don’t know who’s working for who so I think theres a two pronged strategy overt and covert and you people might think the covert is worse than the overt but I think they’re two peas in a pod to be honest it’s the same thing ultimately, ones overt and ones secretive. Personally I’m against any muslim organisation taking any money from the government whatsoever

Can you give us any examples of organisations and individuals that are engaged in spying because in your statuses you say that there are liberal and there are extreme muslims who are “working” for the intelligence services, so can you give us any examples?

Well this is the thing, the short answer is no I’m not going to give you examples because the whole, this is all inherently underground activity there is no paper trail. MI5 do not leave a paper trail, that is what they are experts in doing and yet we know that they are spying on muslims because they basically admit it you know in the PREVENT papers which are published in the home office website and even in the meetings I have attended you know they’ve said to community members you’d be naïve to think if it wasn’t going on. I mean I cant name names because in order to name names you have to be 100% sure even as a muslim you know you cant finger people unless your 100% sure I just don’t believe in doing that I do think that any organisation, any muslim organisation which takes money from government is inherently suspicious and you know I think we have a right to suspect them. We don’t have a right to say we think you are definitely spies but we have a right to have doubts because we know that these are the type of organisations which are doing spying and I think any organisation which calls itself a womens empowerment organisation is inherently suspicious aswell, not that I’m against womens empowerment but it is also obviously so called government strategy to empower socalled muslim women who are being oppressed in their community and often these groups get government money so I think we have a right to have doubts about that. Also organisations that work with the young because the youth are the governments real target, that’s what they want information about so any youth community groups that are working with muslim youth I think, I would personally have doubts about them without saying they’re guilty, they’re innocent whatever so generally I would say in terms of organisations anyone that has close ties to the government and the police we should be suspicious about and we shouldn’t be naïve about it aswell because I mean I know somebody who I cant mention but I know he is an MI5 spy and I know that he’s a head of a huge muslim organisation in this country but I cant name him and he isn’t the kind of person you’d expect if I said his name to you now you’d be shocked OK you’d be absolutely shocked if I said it out loud they would demonise me they would come after me and say why are you going after this good man and that’s why I say we shouldn’t be naïve because the people that we least expect to be the spies are probably the spies and the ones that we do expect to be spies, maybe they’re not spies. So in terms of individuals, I think general islamist groups, I should say first of all I consider myself an islamist. I’m a practicing muslim who believes in political islam but I don’t believe in having contact with MI5 or police and this is why I think that my brothers my islamist brothers fall down because they will justify their contact with the MI5 and the police in the kind of it’s the greater good and I think that’s very cynical and that’s very hypocritical I don’t think you get in bed with your enemy one day and then you know fight him the next I think that’s completely cynical and hypocritical. I ultimately believe that your not in charge aswell because these guys, they control you, you don’t control them and these guys are masters of this game and you become pawns of the game. So you mentioned Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri Mohammed who have had contact with MI5, I know they have because I know their lawyers who sat in on these meetings they in themselves have had contact with MI5, whether they’re MI5 pawns or not is a different matter but we know that MI5 is infioltrating muslim organisations like al muhajiroun but I would say that every single major muslim organisation in this country would be infiltrated if you look at it from MI5’s point of view that just stands to reason. Basically in terms of individuals, I think that anyone, the fact is a lot of islamists have contact with the MI5 and a lot of them because they sought refuge in this country and as soon as you do that the MI5 and the police are all over you but that doesn’t mean that they are tools for MI5 but it does mean that some contact has gone on, I mean you never know whats actually happened, are they blackmailing them? Have they threatened their families? Are they working under duress? You know these are legitimate questions asked and also I mean the fact is if you look at Libya and Syria, these are two areas where islamists and the MI5 and I’ll say the MI6 are working in hand in hand because the islamists will justify it in terms of the greater good they’ll say that we have to overthrow despots like ghaddafi in Libya and bashar in Syria but the fact is that, I mean that I’ll give you an example I know a guy who’s on a control order and he met the same guy who was harassing him for 10 years on the Turkish and suria border and that guy was ultimately from MI5 who said to him “whatever you want I’ll give you” so you know they’re working on the same side so theres a marriage of convenience going on between some islamists and individuals and groups and MI5 and I think that personally my recommendation would be no contact with them whatsoever because your just asking for trouble.

Do you see the industry of spying in the muslim community getting more problematic or something that will die down in the future?

No its going to get bigger, mizan because ultimately the terror industry is big business and ultimately everything in this world comes down to money. And everyone has its price. Ultimately its in the interest of the security services to heighten the terror threat and they do that because as long as the terror threat is high they can go for huge government resources to finance the work they are doing and etc etc so everyones after these contracts and therefore they’re likely to keep on planting stories in the newspapers, they’re going to keep on using the daily mail, the daily telegraph, the daily express and all those right wing papers to heighten the terror threat, to make people scared because as long as they can keep people scared then they can get more money and the police and the MI5 have their own agenda which is often separate from people in government. There might be people in government who want to eradicate terrorism and they might actually feel that way and maybe there are people in the police and MI5 who feel the same way aswell but there are also other people who are generally are just in this to make money and terrorism equals money.

What advice would you give to the muslim community regarding how it should interact with the government? I know that you know, you said that basically a no no to the intelligence but you know the government and the police how should we interact with the authority because you know, we are citizens and we are a community living in the UK?

Yeh I mean of course we’re a minority in this country and we should be good citizens, we should obey the law, we shouldn’t do anything wrong, we shouldn’t I mean I’m against terrorism, I am 100% against terrorism, we live in this country and if we choose to live in this country we accept the rules of this country and we accept the fact that we’re a minority here we don’t run the place and so therefore muslims should be good citixzens here we should interact with our neighbours with non-muslims and you know I’m all for that but at the same time I think that the governments agenda when it comes to terrorism is so compromised and so ideological that I I think any muslim organisation which takes money from the government is asking for trouble really because we’re just going to become pawns in a game that we don’t understand so I would say what one law is is no money from government, muslim organisations should not be taking any money from government, ummm individuals we should not have any contact with MI5, if MI5 approach you then you should know your rights you should not have conversation with them off the record for example because they are experts at getting information out of you and make you incriminate yourself and they can blackmail you. You should ask for lawyer straight away and you should talk to them in the presence of a lawyer otherwise don’t talk to them at all. What else yeh I mean as also as a community we need to unite and the thing is we are a very divided community, we’re divided on sectarian lines you know we’re either salafis or Sufis or shia, we’re divided on ethnic lines such as Pakistanis or whatever and we’re just you know a complete joke in terms of unity and if we don’t unify then they will be able to pick us off very easy and I think the muslim community should come together and form a coordinated response to whats happening. They are basically being targeted, they are basically under attack and they have no answer about it and even if they do know they’re like passive victims but they don’t have to be passive victims they should tell the authorities that this is unacceptable, they wont stand for it, I don’t personally have all the answers, I don’t know what to do for A to Z but I fo know that we need to come together and sort this out as a community and decide on some kind of cohesive response otherwise we’re just going to picked off and we’re going to be victims and I personally don’t want to be a victim and mizan theres onwe other thing that I wanted to say that you haven’t aswked me but I remember it was in one of the questions that you wrote down that I had a look at and that is how I came to this documentary in the first place? I basically came to it in the case of Munir Farooqi in Manchester, ummm which I hope you can highlight because if you go to http://www.savethefamilyhome.com you’ll find the website there it gives you the complete information about this guys case and he was basically subject to under cover surveillance by two cops over the period of a year and they pretended to convert to islam and after they converted they started asking quesions about Jihad, politics and Afghanistan and they filmed this guy and secretly recorded what he saif for over a year and because of the few words that he said about “perhaps noe day we’ll go to Afghanistan and we might do something” he was convicted for 18 years and it smacked me when I visited the family the case smacked me of entrapment you know there was no plan of going to Afghanistan, there was no plot but just because of the few words that he said off the cuff or angry or whatever he was banged up and he is in prison now for 18 years so to me that is not catching terrorists that is entrapping people. So I hope that on your blog you can highlight this case of Munir Farooqi because its probably the most shocking case of entrapment that’s happened in this country perhaps ever you know and they are appealing the judgment at this moment in time aswell.

In 2006, a new convert showed up at a mosque in Orange County, California, eager to study the Koran and make new friends. But when he started acting odd and saying strange things, those friends got suspicious. To them, he was Farouk al-Aziz. But his real name was Craig Monteilh, and he was working undercover for the FBI (Read the update of his story here)

An interview on BBC Live 5 with Dr Leon Moosavi and others on the issue of extradition

Interview with Dan Viesnik from Londons Stop Guantanamo Campaign

Me: I’d like to thank you for agreeing to take part in the interview and one thing I would like to start off with is can you tell us a lot more about the campaign, about the history of it and how it started and where it is now?

Dan: Yeh sure,  So we started towards the end of 2006, basically to campaign for the British residents, the 9 of the british residents who still remain in Guantanamo and campaign for justice and their freedom to return to the UK. So, out of those residents, they’ve all since been released so from that point of view the campaign has been a success but of the original residents that we’re campaigning for theres still Shaker Aamer who is a British resident who’s still in Guantanamo and theres also Ahmed mubashar who since then wasn’t a legal resident. His asylum application was rejected whilst still in Guantanamo so on this technical grounds the British government has refused to ask for his return. Uhmmmm but we continue to say that because he cant return to his native Algeria due to fears for his safety if he is forcibly returned there, he would rather stay in Guantanamo then go back to Algeria. We’re saying that because he lived in the UK for two years on compassionate grounds the UK should offer him the possibility of returning here as a safe place to return to but although the government says its doing everything it can to bring shaker aamer back, its refused to make any representation or to offer a home to mubashir or any other prisoners who can’t return to their countries of origin. So as well as campaigning for the freedom of the residents we’ve also campaigned for Guantanamo to be shut down and against other secret sites and cia prisons around the world and also against the practice of extraordinary rendition.

Me: Ok, so you said that you know, from your campaign, its broadened to actually shut down Guantanamo Bay and all these secret prisons and rendition. What kind of obstacles has the campaign faced apart from the government rejecting some of your campaigns like for example bring shaker aamer back home and all these other prisoners, what other obstacles have you guys faced?

Dan: well in terms of the way we campaign, we haven’t really faced obstacles in the sense that we’ve organised demonstrations and letter campaigns and things. But really its been a case of trying to get people engaged in the issue and trying to…..i think the biggest obstacle is apathy really, where this isn’t really an issue even for people who work on peace and justice campaigns, Guantanamo just isn’t really a priority for them so I think to really get some leverage we’re gonna need to have a critical mass opinion of people who are demanding action and that’s been difficult at times. I think its, I mean, we came in to the, The London Guantanamo campaign started when it was becoming easier to campaign for Guantanamo in the early years after the 9/11 attacks when Guantanamo first opened it was obviously much harder because very little was known about the very people being sent to Guantanamo and so it was assumed that people believed the propaganda that these people were the biggest terrorists on the planet and so forth but we’ve since learned that from the journalistic work being done by the lawyers and so forth that from the stories that have come back we’ve learnt that the majority of the people   who ended up in Guantanamo or elsewhere are either completely innocent or they never had, or certainly it wasn’t ever proven that they were involved in any kind of terrorist activity. We learnt about the bounties, several thousand dollars that were offered to people in Afghanistan and Pakistan to hand over foreign nationals to the Northern alliance and to the americans and how so many people, completely innocent people, people who had nothing to do with, were not involved with terrorism at all, al qaeda or even the Taliban who ended up in the hands of the US and then who had confessions out of them through torture and coercion so really this big obstacle is overcoming that people believe, I believe that propaganda that even today terrorists and why are you defending them, their evil people and just always having to, you know a lot of it comes out through ignorance and narrow mindedness and a lot of people haven’t heard of the stories about the majority of those who are not terrorists, never had anything to do with terrorism, theres 171 people in Guantanamo and 89 of them have been cleared for release theres no, now the government has deemed them not a threat, theres no reason for them to continue to be there but for political reasons their still there purely for political reasons which makes them political prisoners.

Me: You said their still there for political reasons, can you name us some political reasons their still there for?

Dan: well I think a lot of its to do with political opinion in the US that’s still going in to the hype that its for the interest of national security and their a threat and even though it was bush that started off Guantanamo and the torture regime and its Obama that carried it on. Although he pledged to shut it down, he was going to shut it down within a year of taking office, that was 3 years ago and still there’s nothing that happened. He’s afraid I think, he’s afraid of the political right attacking him for being weak on security and any moves to take real action to shut down Guantanamo and baghram and have a change of attitude and a more human rights focused approach leaves them in their eyes vulnerable to their enemies in the eyes of the political rights in the United States and so that’s the major obstacle really.

Me:  So from what I understand, that actually makes it a political imperative for someone like Obama to keep Guantanamo bay open to maybe secure votes or to maybe secure some people on the right in America to ensure that he wins the next election and things like that, you also said that there were certain monetary gains that were to be made, that were paid out to people, do you think that there could have been a certain level of corruption in that?

Dan: Afghanistan has been classified, I think as the most or one of the most corrupt countries in the world and I’m sure that although the current government is supposed to be particularly corrupt. I’m sure that that was also, I’m sure that that kinda thing also went on before, but you know to us, $5,000 to us, well to me will be quite a lot of money but to them will be kinda like becoming a millionaire almost, it’s like several years wages. So if the United States has given them drop flyover’s over afghan villages saying that you know, we’re going to look after your family for years to come you know if you hand in anyone you suspect of being a, you know, al qaeda or Taliban or a terrorist, you know then there’s a massive incentive to you know, somebody who’s from a different tribe or somebody who’s not your friend, somebody you don’t like or have any loyalty to to hand them over and take the money and I’m sure people would do it in this country if there was a war situation and greedy people out there who would you know, take the money, if they were offered a million pounds to hand over somebody who they didn’t like anyway.

Me: yeh I agree

Dan: but they probably didn’t realise what was going to happen anyway, I’m sure you know, you know if they knew that those people knew that they were going to be sent to a concentration camp in Cuba and tortured for up to 10 years, then despite, even you know with the attraction of the money they might have thought…..

Me: They might have been reluctant to do that, actually you know that reminds me of something. Remember when Saddam hussain was captured there was a bounty on his head aswell, and I remember that they didn’t actually release the money to the person that referred them, referred him to them and there was a lot of reasons saying people were coming up to us saying “he’s over there,” and we didn’t know who to give the money to so there’s a lot of things going on there but I want to know more about the London Guantanamo Campaign, so you opened up in 2006, wjat kind of events have you done and what kind of, you could say has there been a change in the political arena in terms of its attitude towards Guantanamo, do you think the attitude is changing now?

Dan: Well since I’ve been campaigning I haven’t noticed a change and I think particularly after Obama came in saying that he was going to close it, it was bad for the United States image and so forth so certainly since the change from when we started up to that point from the public there were more people being sympathetic to us so from that point of view things have become easier in terms of getting public support but there’s still so many people who aren’t clued up about the truth and what the real situation is and also I think that we do what we can to campaign here in London and the UK but this isn’t really where the pressure needs to be laid, okay, I’m sure there’s more that the British government can do to bring Shaker Aamer back and of course it could offer a home to Mubashar, he could be here today in theory if it wasn’t for these new laws that they’re passing which makes it now very difficult to transfer anybody to other countries or to the US to face trial. Prior to those laws being brought in it would have been straight forward so, we do, we kind of act in how we think we can be effective and how we can bring about that change but really in terms of the vast majority of people in Guantanamo and elsewhere there’s only so much we can do here that’s going to be effective that’s really going to have any kind of influence so you know we can only do our best.

Me: Ok, so how can other people get involved in the campaign and what can other people do in their own individual capacity not just help the London Guantanamo Campaign but you know, maybe do their bit to help shut Guantanamo down, what can people do?

Dan: well they can join our demonstrations, we hold monthly demonstrations at the US embassy and at speakers corner….

Me: OK, I didn’t know that, you do monthly

Dan: yeah they used to be done weekly now they’re done monthly since the beginning and in addition to that we have latter writing campaigns and petitions from time to time, there’s an early day motion which is to shut Guantanamo by Caroline Lucas and Jeremy Corbin at the moment so people can write to their MP and ask them to sign the early day motion and theres details of various things on our website which is londonguantanamocampaign.blogspot.com. In addition there’s the save Shaker Aamer campaign which we’re involved in as well and we’re working specifically with shaker Aamer for his return and in February it will be the 10th anniversary since he arrived in Guantanampo bay and there will be two events in Battersea because his family is from Battersea and also one outside the US embassy on the 11th and 14th of February so people can join in on those events. People can write to David Cameron the prime minister, they can write to William Hague the foreign secretary and they can also write to president Obama they can write to the secretary of state Hillary Clinton to make their feelings known they can also write to their MP. So there are all these things that people can do but there are also all these other organisations which campaign on behalf of, to shut Guantanamo, there’s Reprieve, there’s Amnesty, there’s cageprisoners of course and you know people can check their websites to see what kind of actions and events they are organising and go along to those. Some of them, they can inform themselves on what the situation is so that they’re able to speak with some kind of authority you know when they’re talking to their MP or when they’re writing a letter they can show that, I think its better to send a personal letter which raises some of the issues which are of concern to you rather than just a template letter that somebody else has prepared so its good for people to inform themselves about what’s going on and people can write to newspapers and to radio programmes and so forth and just to basically do day to day talking to people from their faith, talking to people from their religious community or friends or family and getting people thinking about the issue and getting together maybe organising events of their own so there’s all kinds of different things people can do depending on their skills and their interests, if they’re poets they can write some poetry, so there’s all amounts of things people can do to raise awareness about the issue and make their feelings known, we have social media, we have twitter, facebook we have London Guantanamo campaign uses both of those so there’s all different arrays where people can get involved and get their feelings known and try and get some kind of movement and get these people home from Guantanamo and get Guantanamo bay shut down.

Max blumenthal

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a writing fellow for the Nation Institute. His book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller. Order a copy here.

 

Alternate Focus interviews Nurit Peled-Elhanan, author of the forthcoming book Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education. Nurit Peled-Elhanan argues that the textbooks used in the school system are laced with a pro-Israel ideology, and that they play a part in priming Israeli children for military service. She analyzes the presentation of images, maps, layouts and use of language in History, Geography and Civic Studies textbooks, and reveals how the books might be seen to marginalize Palestinians, legitimize Israeli military action and reinforce Jewish-Israeli territorial identity.