March 17, 2009
Islamophobia and the Jailing of Hicham Yezza
In May 2008 Hicham Yezza, an IT technician at the University of Nottingham, was arrested, together with student Rizwaan Sabir, in a well-publicised anti-terrorist swoop. They had downloaded al-Qaida material from the US Department of Defense website as part of Sabir's academic work on terrorism.
Disgracefully, they were reported to the police by Nottingham University. The abandonment by British universities of any idea of academic independence is one of the unsung tragedies of our recent history. Our universities have become factories for churning out ever increasing numbers of "vocationally trained" graduates into a market with far less graduate jobs than the supply. Such research as is undertaken is tightly targeted, measured and constrained in terms not of human knowledge but of such state concepts as economic and social impact.
In the panic to be seen as helpful to the government, Nottingham University turned in these two Muslims, presumably on the basis that if you were planning to commit terrorist offences, then openly studying terrorism at university would be a good cover.
Actually, as far as I can tell no recent terrorist has had a proper qualification in terrorism from a British university. Surely, given the government's obsession with vocational training as the purpose of university education, that is something the government must seek to remedy?
The ludicrous nature of the arrests quickly became apparent even to Nottinghamshire Police, and after an unpleasant six days in cells and the permanent shredding of their reputations, the men were released. Disgracefully, there has been no public apology from Nottingham University.
Just as with the face saving alleged "discovery" of child porn on the computer of the innocent "terrorist suspect" the police shot in Leyton, lo and behold Nottinghamshire Police discovered that Yezza was a criminal after all. He was an illegal immigrant!
Yezza has now been jailed for nine months for "securing avoidance of enforcement action by deceptive means". As he was working and studying at Nottingham University under his own name, the deception is not apparent. But a formal jail sentence for an illegal immigrant in this country is extremely unusual. Yezza was not part of the criminal underworld and if he had applied properly his immigration status would in all probability have been able to be regularised. It is very hard to believe the judge was not motivated by the original slur of terrorism. This must go down as yet another striking example of Islamophobia in this country.
The government refuses to put a figure on the number of illegal immigrants in the UK. Academic estimates tend to put the figure around 800,000. It is generally agreed that aound 1 in 25 Londoners is an illegal immigrant. Having much professional experience with immigration and close personal links to a number of immigrant communities, I would put the overall figure much higher, at around 1.5 million. But to take even the lower estimates, can you imagine the chaos if we started to jail illegal immigrants for nine months? The singling out of Yezza is appalling victimisation.
Posted by craig on March 17, 2009 7:59 AM in the category UK Policy
You might be interested in this video of Notts Police and University security's reaction to a demon against the Paestinian wall on campus.
Hich's friend Rizwaan was arrested for being a bit cheeky. Didn't know that was a criminal offence...
Posted by: Andy at March 17, 2009 8:55 AM
Demon? Demo even...
Posted by: Andy at March 17, 2009 8:56 AM
The deception was that he claimed his passport had been stamped to allow him to stay in this country until December 2007. When the passport was discovered it was only stamped until January 2003.
That detail aside, I agree with the general sentiments you express. If this merits nine months imprisonment, what does the government deserve for securing our participation in wars by deception or, to take a topical issue, deceitfully claiming it did not know it was receiving intelligence obtained by torture?
Posted by: cmain at March 17, 2009 9:37 AM
@cmain: !! what do we learn of this? Deception is not equal deception!
Thank you Craig for the article. I would like to translate it into German (i thought about writing something myself, but now i think you just summed it up very nicely). May I?
Posted by: Omar at March 17, 2009 10:02 AM
Posted by: craig at March 17, 2009 10:04 AM
"How did we reach the position where the people in charge of our institutions of higher learning are among the most stupid in the country? " - Simple. They has a University education.
Posted by: lwtc247 at March 17, 2009 12:01 PM
"How did we reach the position where the people in charge of our institutions of higher learning are among the most stupid in the country? " - Simple. They has a University education.
Posted by: lwtc247 at March 17, 2009 12:02 PM
done. thanks again.
Posted by: Omar at March 17, 2009 2:40 PM
"Actually, as far as I can tell no recent terrorist has had a proper qualification in terrorism from a British university".
So what was Blair's degree in, then? It obviously wasn't terrorism, or he might at least have been some good at it.
Posted by: Tom Welsh at March 17, 2009 2:50 PM
"A terrorist is someone with a bomb but no Air Force". Ok, it's crude, but there's a lot of truth in it too.
Posted by: dreoilin at March 17, 2009 3:25 PM
You are right about the rush to university education - clearly 50% of jobs in this country do not require a degree so why are we pushing 50% of youngsters into degree courses - often micky mouse subjects like media studies. In my experience this is creating a generation of unhappy young people - they think they are going to get great jobs in the media or academia, in reality thay cannot even get a clerical job in local government. We should be pushing genuine vocational courses - useful things like engineering, joinery, bricklaying and proper craft skills. You are part of the problem Craig because unless university administrators recognise the futility of growth in this sector it will only get worse. But that would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.
Posted by: eddie at March 17, 2009 3:52 PM
We should be getting back to the old apprenticeship system. But unfortunately there are no longer all that many home-based industries requiring apprentices.
The lunatic paper profit-driven economic world which has evolved over the past thirty years, and which has just collapsed so spectacularly, has ended up with most people not having much else to do except take in each other's washing.
As for the 50 per cent. of the younger generation acquiring near-useless mickey mouse degrees, they will find out to their cost that, as W.S.Gilbert said "when everyone is somebody, then no-one's anybody".
Posted by: anticant at March 17, 2009 4:27 PM
Don't fall for the con that says Media Studies has to be a useless subject. It's not my own subject but I see considerable arguments in favour of a course that encourages students to consider such questions as who owns the media, how the news is controlled, what assumptions are made and conveyed in TV programmes, etc. A good media studies course shouldn't churn out unthinking media hacks but raise questions about power, prejudice, etc. that aren't confronted in the mainstream media. I can see why newspapers and radio and TV stations attack a subject that questions and analyses their cosy consensus. But it seems a shame that the prejudice against media studies has infected people who are already critical enough of the media to search for additional sources of information.
If media are important and affecting the way people think, of course they should be studied at university and elsewhere.
Posted by: kathz at March 17, 2009 6:20 PM
It sounds like you've been reading those twats at Media Lens. Your point is tendentious in the extreme because the type of lecturers on the courses you describe have a certain world view that is polemical rather than enquiring. Fine to study the media but do it yourself and not under the tutelage of a preacher - you don't need a degree to do it and don't imagine it's going to lead to a job.
Posted by: eddie at March 17, 2009 7:55 PM
Many a year ago, in the dim and distant past, our school magazine carried a cartoon that has stuck in my mind.
You have to bear in mind those far off days when bread, meat, and groceries were delivered to households by a boy on a bicycle with a huge basket on the front.
The cartoon was of the "then" and "now" genre: "then" had a butcher's shop with the bicycle propped outside and a note in the window saying "Smart Lad Wanted"; "now" had exactly the same scene, but the note now said "Smart Grad Wanted".
Have we got to "now" yet?
Posted by: David McKelvie at March 17, 2009 8:35 PM
I am torn between ignoring Eddie's constant disruption, this time abusive, and responding to defend the excellent work David Edwards and David Cromwell do at Media Lens. The abuse they receive comes from quarters rather more prominent than trolls who dwell here: Roger Alton, once editor of The Observer, said to a member of the public who'd written to him: "Have you been told to write in by those cunts at Media Lens?". You'd think as a public figure maintaining our "gateway to the truth", he'd be up for a bit of civil debate, though clearly not.
For what its worth, I think the manner in which versions of the truth that serve official ends are magnified by the media, and versions of the truth that do not are ignored, is alive and well in the UK, even in the "liberal" press. In my view, that the Media Lens staff are the target of such abuse can be taken to indicate that they have annoyed the right people (to borrow one of Craig's previous phrases!).
Fixing the media system that permits so much injustice in the world is therefore a priority, which is why I am proud to support them financially. I would commend their work to all readers here willing to analyse Media Lens' work honestly, and urge people who find it valuable to set up a standing order if they can afford it.
Posted by: Jon at March 18, 2009 2:52 PM
Jon. I was reading that article only yesterday. I've had a similar experience a couple of years back. Media Lens alerted readers to [paraphrase] “Journo American infatuation”, criticising Robin Oakley amongst others. I think they uncovered that Oakley et. al were members of a USUK 'cosy interest' group. And that Steven Sakur(?) wife was an Iraq exile (which may just have clouded SS's view perhaps).
I wrote to Media lens expressing (if I remember correctly) my concern that these interests should be publicised or the presenters involved should not cover specific cases as a result.
Oakley to his credit replied, but to his discredit, he told me to do something like 'stop peeing in the wind" and then as I copy+pasted one or two lines from Media Lens's article he complained about and dismissed "round robin" letters of dissatisfaction. His whole reply was abusive – not important but very annoyingly completely failed to address my concerns.
I got the feeling then that it was illegitimate to ignore my concerns in that way.
It seems like the BBC careerist presstitutes chat about these things and discussed this tactics on how to ignore legitimate complains by the people that pay their wages.
It should be said however, that the hydra herself Helen Boaden is(was?) by far the worst. http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/070926_i_fascist_robot.php
I'm glad EddieTroll(TM) reminded me to get that Monthly donation set up. P.S. Eddie, I've replied to the latest instalment of your toxic guff on the March 17, 2009. Emails to Joint Human Rights Committee Were Read thread.
Posted by: lwtc247 at March 18, 2009 4:17 PM
@lwtc247 - I am not aware of the Robin Oakley thing but, in general, that some journalists would not see a conflict of interest in membership of groups having favourable views towards, say, US-UK relations or Israeli dominance over Palestine etc is no longer remarkable. That said, not all journalists are alike, and to be fair to the good ones, some would shun memberships of this kind regardless of their personal political views especially because of the conflict of interest.
I agree entirely that when journalists are written to as a result of media activism, the response can sometimes be abusive. A number of spiky responses, including the Alton reply I referred to earlier, are documented in Guardians of Power, which I would recommend if you haven't already read it.
However though we probably are in broad agreement, I am not sure that BBC journalists necessarily discuss amongst themselves how to ignore legitimate complaints, or certainly not in any "conspiratorial" way that some folks might suggest. I believe that ordinary journalists see themselves as earnest strivers for the truth, which is probably why some of them get frustrated when their blind spots are pointed out. They genuinely see themselves as the "good guys", which is why Reeta Chakrabarti (see URL) can earnestly quote Tony Blair to prove he was telling the truth, and not experience any cognitive dissonance.
Posted by: Jon at March 18, 2009 5:52 PM
Or they both work(ed) for MI5.
Corruption is widespread, as lwtc247 explains, and of course conspiracy is part of the deal.
Posted by: researcher at March 18, 2009 8:43 PM
@researcher - I guess it is possible, but not on any widespread scale. There are all sorts of theories about how editors of all the competing newspapers get together for a bash and chuckle to each other about the 'real news' that they won't print. But a worldwide conspiracy of this kind would be impossible to keep a lid on, so the analysis of why some things are (not) reported needs to go beyond that.
The analysis at Media Lens, which uses Chomsky & Herman's Propaganda Model, specifically does not cite conspiracy as the reason why the media is in the state it is in.
Posted by: Jon at March 19, 2009 10:08 AM
Jon, the lid on it has been lifted decades ago.
Did you see the clip where the BBC announced the collapse of WTC 7 before it happened ?
They get their scripts about secret service operations before they happen.
Top journalists get 2 salaries.
See Operation Mockingbird.
Also, Noam Chomsky's participation in the cover-up of the perpetrators of 9-11 is evident.
Or do you believe the controlled demolition of WTC 1, 2 and 7,
and the stand-down orders for NORAD were directed from a cave in Afghanistan ?
Posted by: researcher at March 19, 2009 11:35 AM
Thanks for highlighting this important case Craig -- what has happened to Hicham Yezza is a complete outrage and frankly makes me want to leave this country.
Posted by: James at March 19, 2009 9:00 PM
Dear Mr Murray,
It is evident that you know hardly anything of this case and are just talking through your balaclava. So much in your statement is just plain false, factually wrong, emotionally hectoring and has the smell of second hand retelling that one wonders how you concocted it. Fr a grown and apparently sensible person to see the absolutely false string of logic and sheer emotional mess of his argument is abject. The man is a criminal with a backlog of county court judgments against him. He has lied, deceived and thieved from UK citizens for the past five years or more. He cheated someone out of a job that was legally theirs for his own selfish ends - then he failed even to do that job properly. And you - a self-styled "dissident" (what an absurd and narcissistic thing to call yourself in a country like this) - think it trendy and left wing to dismiss these criminal activities and join the Yezza cheerleading party? Grow up and be an example to people, not something that should be made an example of. What a spectacle you make of yourself. But worst of all - you know nothing, but you say the most absurd things on the basis of that nothing. As Marx once famously said of Wilhelm Weitling, "Ignorance never yet helped anybody."
Posted by: David S Thoroughgood at March 20, 2009 12:10 AM
@researcher. I confess I have not engaged with 9/11 theories as much as I ought to - I tend to want to challenge the open lying and conspiracy first, and I am sure we're agreed there's plenty of that. However, I believe it was in Catholic Orangemen that Craig refers to a military commander who gave significant credence to government involvement theories - which is the first time I've seriously considered it. Perhaps this is why I unconsciously avoid 9/11 theories - the idea that a modern "liberal" "democratic" government would be complicit in blowing up 3000 of its civilians for 'realpolitik' or media manipulation is just too horrible to contemplate.
But the implication that Chomsky, who is far too radical to be quoted in the media, is in fact a government agent, is quite peculiar. I have heard the suggestion that he is part of the 'cover up' before, but if this were the case, why have they not paid him to cease his activism on his myriad of other topics? I will find that suggestion a tough one to believe, I am afraid! (An activist I used to know, who fully subscribed to 9/11 theories, told me: "You're either with us or against us [on believing the truth]". I had to point out that I'd heard that sort of ominous threat before...)
@David Thoroughgood - hmm, where to start on your own 'emotionally hectoring' message? Implying that Craig is a terrorist is not helpful, as you well know, though perhaps it fits in well with the abusive style you demonstrate later in your post. You've also alleged that Hicham Yezza is a criminal, has a number of CCJs against him, and is a thief too, but a good web search fails to corroborate that. Care to provide some refs?
I wonder whether some good-old-blighty nationalism has led you to the racist belief that Yezza is a Muslim, and his studying a terrorist training manual must for nefarious purposes; ergo, he must be a terrorist. Does the fact that he is not being jailed for a terrorist offence ring any alarm bells for you? Are you not surprised that he has received a much heavier sentence that an ordinary "illegal immigrant", and if not, why not? You're clearly a smart cookie, but I guess that doesn't mean you can't be blinded by your own conservatism.
Craig - a trendy left winger! That'll make him chuckle.
Posted by: Jon at March 21, 2009 3:12 PM
Jon, thanks for your open mind.
An important reason why so few dare see the conspiracy destroying our world:
"The individual is handicapped by coming face to face with a conspiracy so monstrous he cannot believe it exists."
J. Edgar Hoover, former FBI director, 1956
Maybe you would like to watch the documentary "Open Complicity" ?
Posted by: researcher at March 22, 2009 1:51 AM
@researcher - not heard of it, but will try to make time. Is that a good one for beginners? :-)
Am presently watching "Terrorising Dissent" on DVD and it is awesome, if a little scary, and whilst the repression may have been organised by a conspiracy, the repression itself is very real, as the video documents. It's US-based, but police repression here has got worse too, as any seasoned protestor will tell you.
Posted by: Jon at March 23, 2009 1:06 PM