By YVONNE RIDLEY
I AM overseas as the whole Abu Qatada hate fest unfolds back in London.
And from my seat over-looking the Bosphorus I am cringing with embarrassment and wondering what on earth has happened to my country.
The screaming headlines, the overly animated MPs and the behaviour of government ministers rather reminded me of the notorious monkey-hanging legend from Napoleonic times which to this day haunts the good people of Hartlepool. But I will return to that later.
Never do I recall reading so much hysterical nonsense over one person yet British parliamentarians from all parties, so-called anti terror experts and mouth pieces for rightwing think tanks continue to compete for a slot on TV to whip themselves up into an unprecedented frenzy.
The bizarre thing is they know little or nothing about Abu Qatada in terms of actual facts. Yet their hate knows no bounds or logic but, what the heck … he’s a Muslim and in the current climate Muslim-baiting has become a perfectly acceptable sport in the UK.
Tragically, this incoherent rabble illustrates exactly what happens when foreign intelligence meddles with our democracy.
Want to know where the secret evidence about Abu Qatada came from? It came from those acting for Arab leaders and their wealthy friends.
Those in power in the Middle East have feared and despised the Palestinian cleric for decades – his ability to articulate and inspire and influence ordinary people across the Arab world horrified them.
Feeling their very existence under threat they conspired to have him tortured, tried and executed so when he escaped and fled to the UK and continued to criticise them they worked their influence on various lick-spittle toadies in Whitehall to have Abu Qatada silenced.
It is to our eternal shame that we complied – bedazzled by their billion dollar arms deals and massive contracts, brown envelopes and secret accounts.
And when the British Government decides to make public its secret evidence against Abu Qatada I may consider doing the same to show exactly how foreign intelligence agencies planted evidence and hoodwinked us all.
Abu Qatada’s presence in the UK meant big business for some and other detractors on the fringe of this corrupt circle have also made a nice little living for their rightwing think tanks and blogs over the years by fanning the flames of hate on behalf of the corrupt kings and rulers in the Arab world. Some of them to this day still have no idea who is pulling their strings.
One has to wonder just which governments really benefitted from Theresa May when she parroted the words that Abu Qatada is a dangerous man just the other day.
I’m not sure she is even aware of where it came from herself and to be fair to her, she is not the first government minister to line up and say the same without producing one shred of evidence.
It’s certainly safe to say we can ignore the special intelligence briefings against Abu Qatada – these were concocted by the same sort of craven liars who tried to convince us all that Saddam was 45 minutes away from nuking us to oblivion.
And it’s interesting to note that one of the most vocal critics of the cleric is the now discredited Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, another serial liar who was finally exposed and discredited just the other day. He went as far as to say Abu Qatada was the spiritual leader of Al Qaida in Europe – he produced not one shred of evidence but who would dare question the word of one of Spain’s most eminent judges at the time?
Yet despite Garcon’s spectacular fall from grace, the convicted felon’s words continue to be repeated ad nauseum by feckless fools and journalists too dumb to realise they’re doing the dirty work of those Arab regimes still standing.
But in this current climate of fear against all things Islamic there are a poisonous few with their own anti-British agenda who are capitalising on the situation.
And their agenda is very anti-British. Do we need reminding we are a nation of people whose calm rationale and stoicism are world famous. Rarely have we allowed ourselves to be whipped up into a state of panic.
Despite decades of so-called Irish terrorism – sponsored by US dollars – we remained untroubled by The Troubles refusing to allow the IRA affect our daily lives and routines.
Sadly in the USA, many of our American cousins wake up frightened, they go to bed frightened and they are constantly being told by their government to be afraid, very afraid. This state and media manufactured paranoia has now impinged on all of our lives – the nonsense we have to go through at UK airports is a direct result of hysteria sweeping across from the other side of the Atlantic.
Which brings me back to the embarrassing episode of the monkey.
At the time of the Napoleonic Wars in Britain there was a fear of a French invasion and much public concern about the possibility of French infiltrators and spies.
Fear mongers managed to turn ordinary, level-headed citizens into barking mad fools so much so that on the day some storm wreckage from a sunken French vessel washed up on the shore of Hartlepool it created mass panic and hysteria.
Fearing an invasion was underway they began examining the wreckage strewn across the beach and discovered a rather bedraggled, sorry-looking survivor. It was the ship’s pet monkey dressed to amuse in a military uniform but because the people in Hartlepool had never encountered a Frenchman they assumed the monkey must be one.
By this time all rational thought had left them and so they joined in the hysteria about the French threat and put the monkey on trial. They questioned the animal at length and because it was not forthcoming with any coherent information they concluded it must be a French spy and should be executed. And so, taking the law into their own hands, they hung the monkey on a makeshift gallows.
The story soon swept beyond Hartlepool’s border and to this day the town is ridiculed and has become the butt of many a joke all because their forefathers allowed themselves to suspend all reason and logic.
Let’s remember why Abu Qatada came to Britain with his family in the first place … he was fleeing persecution in Jordan, a country where human rights are as rare as hens’ teeth.
He was advocating the Arab people rise up and overthrow the dictatorships and tyrants from Jordan, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Saudi and beyond. A call that would be encouraged and welcomed in today’s climate of the Arab Spring.
And when he fled, he chose these shores because of the UK’s reputation as a beacon of human rights where justice and fairness still exist in a world corrupted by treachery, greed and fear. His audience was never British, he had no influence in Europe and he is a threat to no one apart from the brutal tyrants in power in the Middle East.
Given enough rope the gaggle of British MPs and media fuelling the lynch mob pursuing Abu Qatada, may very well hang the British reputation for fairplay … and from my view overseas it is now dangling by a thread.
* British journalist Yvonne Ridley is a patron of the human rights organisation and London-based NGO Cageprisoners. She regularly contributes to http://www.seerahwest.com/