Faizah Shaheen was detained on July 25 by police officers in Doncaster, England. She was targeted by police because she was reading a book called Syria Speaks. The news of this event went viral, subsequently causing the sales of Syria Speaks to soar.
The The Guardian reports that “a cabin-crew member reported her for ‘suspicious behavior’ while reading a book about Syrian culture on a flight to Turkey.” The irony here is thick; the unlawful persecution of Shaheen, because she was reading potentially dangerous literature, led the book to raise in popularity, significantly.
Perhaps the scariest part of this story comes from Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act, which justified detaining Shaheen in the first place. The law allows police to detain individuals without probable cause. Probable cause comes from the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents the unlawful search and seizure of citizens. We have our own issues in America with violations of this amendment, but now we see England may be suffering from a similar corruption of individual rights.
The book itself has received high praise from author AL Kennedy and musician Brian Eno who reviewed the book as, “a wise, courageous, imaginative and beautiful response to all that is ugly in human behavior.” The book itself is a collection of essays from over 50 artists. Their aim was to help curtail the “culture of violence” they experienced in Syria.
Co-editor of the book Syria Speaks, Zaher Omareen, was interviewed by The Guardian and said the following: “Judging individuals and even taking measures against them based on their race, their looks, their language, or the printed words they carry is unacceptable and unjustifiable.” The abuse of human rights based on how somebody looks or what they read is something straight out of 1984.
There is some good news here too. American and English citizens reacted to the news of Shaheen by showing support for the book and author by buying a copy for themselves. Such reactions give hope. The only way to truly understand somebody and their culture is to educate yourself, which is exactly what people did.
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