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After Paris - SACC statement on Responses to the Terrorist Attacks

SACC is increasingly alarmed at the international, domestic and public response to the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13 November.

The French National Assembly has approved an extended state of emergency that threatens to strangle democracy. Demonstrations and meetings can be banned under the emergency powers. The climate marches planned for 29 November and 12 December have already been banned.

Mass involvement in political activity is at risk of being blocked or stage-managed, or pushed into self-censorship. This situation will make it very difficult for people in France to develop a progressive response to the events of 13 November.

In place of democracy, the authorities and the media are promoting unity of the French nation. It's a poisoned unity calculated to hide the conflicting interests of war profiteers and ordinary people. Nothing good can come of it.

The emergency powers allow police to place people under house arrest without judicial authorisation. 104 people were placed under house arrest within 48 hours of the powers coming into effect. House arrests will inevitably be used to punish Muslims who are politically inconvenient, but against whom there is no evidence of criminality. And they will inevitably have a much wider punitive effect on the families and communities of the people incarcerated.

SACC stands in solidarity with those in France who are campaigning for the state of emergency to be lifted. We would be opposed to the imposition of any similar powers in the UK in the event of a terrorist incident here.

There have been strident calls for borders to be closed. The EU's external borders are already virtually closed. As a result, more than 3000 people have died this year trying to reach safety across the Mediterranean. Their deaths are the inevitable result of policies designed to deter refugees from coming to Europe. These policies are politically and morally no different from other forms of ethnic cleansing. They ought to be regarded as crimes against humanity. Further border restrictions will deepen the crime.

SACC stands against Fortress Europe, which is nothing but a device to allow European governments to plunder the world beyond their borders with impunity.

The British Government is seeking to exploit the attacks in Paris to build support for draconian surveillance and anti-extremism legislation already going through Parliament.

We oppose these new laws, which threaten almost all of us and will do nothing to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.

In Scotland, a mosque in Bishopbriggs has suffered an arson attack. The Asian owner and staff of a takeaway in Methil, Fife, have suffered a serious attack. Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government's Minister for Europe and External Development, has received abusive messages - not for the first time. Police Scotland say they received 64 reports of racially or religiously motivated crime in the week following the Paris attacks. Word of mouth suggests suggests that islamophobic abuse may be even more widespread than the figures indicate. Beside this, Muslims increasingly find themselves addressed in ways that are not explicitly abusive, but nevertheless leave the impression that they are being viewed with a degree of suspicion, hostility or prejudice.

This omnipresent Islamophobia isn't a natural or inevitable response to the Paris attacks. It has been inflamed by fourteen years of media and government efforts to promote the view that there is something wrong with Islam, and that something needs to be done about it. On top of this has been piled, for over a year, a programme of organised hysteria against ISIS. It was obviously intended to create a climate of opinion favourable to an escalation of the wars in the Middle East, and was just as obviously conducted with reckless disregard for the likelihood that it would drive some people towards ISIS rather than away from it.

SACC stands for openness and discussion, and against islamophobia, fear-mongering, propaganda and secrecy.

The recent brutal escalation of Russia's involvement in the Syria conflict has made the proxy wars there unsustainable in their present form. The regional and world powers involved in the conflict are evidently minded to re-configure their policies so that they can carry on fighting for their various interests without regard for the well-being, rights and security of either the peoples of the region or their own populations. The Paris attacks have given them the opportunity to steam-roller new policies past domestic opinion.

The International Syria Support Group has accelerated its efforts to broker a ceasefire and issued a statement on 14 November - just a day after the Paris attacks - that appears to be a significant, though probably not decisive, step along this path. On 20th November the UN Security Council unanimously agreed a resolution that in effect calls for military action against ISIS-held areas in Syria and Iraq. The resolution relies on the process outlined by the Syria Support Group for a means to decide which Syrian and Iraqi militias might later be targeted along with ISIS, but it does nothing else to create a framework within which countries fighting ISIS can avoid conflict with one another. The arrangements for a Syrian ceasefire may eventually provide such a framework, or they may not. But the UN call for action against ISIS has immediate effect. 

We view the moves by the Syria Support Group with deep distrust, and the Security Council resolution with extreme alarm. It is a breathtaking attempt to bypass political discussion in UN member states, perhaps especially Britain and the US. It opens the door for a massive expansion of imperialist involvement in the Middle East, and risks unleashing a free-for-all amongst the major players. It gives a veneer of legality to imperialism and war. It will be used to try to marginalise opposition to war and destroy the anti-war movement as a serious political force. The movement must fight back.

We suspect that Britain, which holds the UN Security Council Presidency, played a key role in negotiating the resolution that was put before the Council.

We are firmly opposed to British involvement in wars in the Middle East, whether engineered by the British Government, the UN Security Council or any other organisation. We demand that our MPs vote against any such involvement.

We stand in solidarity with all the victims of war and terrorism.  

Richard Haley, SACC Chair