About the prohibition of a book.

By Ainhoa Nadia Douhaibi and Salma Amazian.

A little over a year ago, we published La radicalización del racismo. Islamofobia de Estado y prevención antiterrorista (Cambalache, 2019) – “The radicalization of racism. State Islamophobia and anti-terrorist prevention” with the intention of reporting the State racism resulting from the policies of “preventing violent extremism”.

The book presents the case of Mohamed Achraf as a paradigmatic example of the machinery that the State puts at the disposal of institutionalized racism. After the book was published, we sent a copy to Mohamed at the A Lama prison (Pontevedra) so that he could learn how we had related his case. However, Penitentiary Institutions refused to hand it over to him and, a few weeks ago, the National Court ratified the decision to retain the book “for security reasons”.

The court order justifies this prohibition alleging “that on pages 113 to 115 the indicators that can be found in the Instrument for assessing the risk of violent radicalism are reproduced”. According to the National Court and despite the fact that the “Framework Protocol for the prevention of radicalization in prisons” is public, the “working tools”, however, are not. Nevertheless, we found the latter document published on the Senate´s website. In fact, currently it is still available, freely accessible, on the internet.

The court order also indicates that the knowledge of said indicators by Mohamed would suppose that the “inmate himself could artificially adapt his behavior to the different general parameters of study and follow-up, thus avoiding the activities of observation, intervention and/or prison treatment in his case.” Having access to said indicators, those people that Penitentiary Institutions consider to be in a possible radicalization process, could “circumvent or distort the assessment by professionals of the degree of radicalization and prison evolution of the inmate, as well as harm the effectiveness of prison treatment.”

«The detection mechanisms are nothing more than a way to sophisticate the Islamophobic racism of prison civil servants, which is legitimized and protected by all the political, judicial and media machinery of criminalization of Muslims.»

However, in our book, we argue that, as Mohamed himself has denounced, those detection mechanisms are nothing more than a way to sophisticate the Islamophobic racism of prison civil servants, which is legitimized and protected by all the political, judicial and media machinery of criminalization of Muslims in general and, very specifically, Muslim men. 

Mohamed does not need to read the list of indicators to know which of his attitudes are considered as “radicalization signs”. Among other reasons, because he is imprisoned under the counter-terrorism law. Therefore, since the first day he entered prison, he was considered “radical” by the Penitentiary Institutions, the National Court, the police and all law enforcement officers in this country. Mohamed was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment based on evidence that he affirms was manufactured and on statements from protected witnesses (who finally confessed to having been manipulated by the police) within the framework of a set up called “Operation Nova”.

At the end of 2018, once his sentence had been completed and without having set a foot on the street, he was detained in jail, once again, accused of the crime of “recruitment”. Since then, he has been held in preventive detention. He has been in solitary confinement since he entered prison in 2004 and all his communications, both written and oral, are subject to surveillance. In other words, Mohamed is alone in the cell, he goes out to the courtyard for four hours a day, with a maximum of two people, and he cannot communicate with anyone without Penitentiary Institutions reading or listening to what is said in those communications. This has been the case in his life for sixteen years. And yet, now they accuse him of being a kind of “great indoctrinator” within the State prisons. But how has he been able to perform his supposed recruitment functions while undergoing this extreme surveillance? And, in that case, why, if he was dedicated to “attract followers”, has he been transferred up to twelve times, from jail to jail, by decision of the General Secretariat of Prisons? Nothing holds up and yet this system keeps him locked up.

«In his essay “A plea from prison against the Anti-Jihadist Protocol in prisons”, he expresses, with much more clarity and forcefulness than our book, the cruelty of the prison regime towards Muslim prisoners in general and, in particular, towards those classified as radicals.»

Mohamed himself has explained on several occasions on the Tokata digital platform the punishments that have been inflicted on him in prison. In his essay “Un alegato desde la cárcel contra el Protocolo Antiyihadista en prisiones (“A plea from prison against the Anti-Jihadist Protocol in prisons”), he expresses, with much more clarity and forcefulness than our book, the cruelty of the prison regime towards Muslim prisoners in general and, in particular, towards those classified as radicals and subjected to the Internal Files of Special Monitoring (FIES).

“The fake anti-radicalism program aims to criminalize common prisoners who are Muslim and who worship at times, considering them radical.”

“The false program seeks to hang medals, stripes and merits, deceiving itself and deceiving society because the people who get into said program are neither radicals nor anything and those who sign up do it only is to get out of a worse prison situation (isolation, FIES, retaliation …) into another which is less bad. Just like the Islamists convicted of terrorism who have signed an agreement and who do not do so because they are guilty but to avoid a worse sentence, because they will be convicted anyway because they are practicing Muslims.”

The indicators the National Court wants to hide are nothing more than the systematization of a series of Islamophobic constructions that circulate in the dominant social imaginary. These ideas about Islam and Muslims constitute and activate institutional racism through, for example, the work of the civil service (teachers, technicians and bureaucrats, policemen, judges, and the political class). The coordinates established by these indicators give the green light to the implementation of police, judicial and penal measures that are disguised as scientism and truth.

“Security” has increasingly become a subterfuge to defend blatantly authoritarian policies and measures and a mechanism to justify the violence, whose racialized victims are always left in the dark. “For security reasons…”, they repeat over and over again. But what security are we talking about? Who does it protect and who does it not?

«The reason for the existence of prevention protocols is not found in the will of the State to “prevent”, nor in dealing with “radicalization” and “the terrorist threat”; on the contrary, it is about “making sense” of a domestic policy that has been using the rhetoric of migration, Islam and terrorism to achieve political gain.»

In the book we argue – through a series of arguments that we cannot develop in a short article like this – that the reason for the existence of prevention protocols is not found in the will of the State to “prevent”, nor in dealing with “radicalization” and “the terrorist threat”; on the contrary, it is about “making sense” of a domestic policy that has been using the rhetoric of migration, Islam and terrorism to achieve political gain, diverting attention from latent socioeconomic problems; among others, access to housing, work, health or education.While the far-right does it in a shameless and openly racist way, the rest of the political factions are characterized by their silence or their ambiguity regarding issues that concern racism in general and, in particular, the counter-terrorism policy as one of the ways in which such racism is institutionalized.

In La radicalización del racismo, we try to explain that this deployment of measures is possible and “makes sense” insofar as it feeds on – and reproduces – the historical, systematic and institutionalized dehumanization of Muslims. In other words, it is racism that facilitates the justification and the social consensus necessary for the naturalization of the deployment of state violence in a racial key.

To conclude this text, we want to highlight that Mohamed carries out tireless work from prison, presenting appeals to all the grievances to which he has been subjected in the different prisons during these long years of deprivation of liberty. He has also done so in the present case: he has appealed the decision of the National High Court claiming that his right to information is being seriously violated and, therefore, that he vindicates his right to have the book delivered to him.

Published by Ainhoa Nadia Douhaibi and Salma Amzian in El Salto on February 12th, 2021.

Translated by @redislamofobia.