Nov 232006
 

You really do have to ask yourself who pulls whose strings when it comes to deciding who comes to this country, and the manner in which they come.

Take the case of Ruhal Ahmed, a British Muslim who was held without charge for two years with Australians David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib at the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba. Mr Ahmed, one of the so-called Tipton Three, all British citizens whose government agitated for and obtained their release from the Cuban hell-hole in 2004. Mr Ahmed and his fellow detainees, Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, were in Afghanistan after travelling to Pakistan in 2001 for a wedding. They were unfortunate enough to suffer the same fate as David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib in that they were taken by the Afghani Northern Alliance fighters and sold to the American forces as Al Qaeda operatives. From that moment on, the three, as with Hicks and Habib and doubtless hundreds of others just like them, were denied all basic human rights, considered guilty without charge, tortured and subjected to numerous other privations, against their will.

The tale of the Tipton Three is told in the Michael Winterbottom directed docu-drama “The Road to Guantanamo”. Mr Ahmed has been travelling the globe promoting the movie, undetered by his own government, which clearly considers him not to be any security risk. Likewise all other nations he has travelled to and obtained the necessary entry visas. Germany, France, Iceland, Turkey, Spain, Ireland, Holland, South Africa, Slovenia, Denmark and Kosovo to date have all opened their borders for the former detainee. None consider him any security risk, obviously. He cannot travel to the US, but given the treatment he received at the hands of the US administration and military, I dare say he wouldn’t want to.

Mr Ahmed, however, has been denied entry to Australia. Asio apparently advised DIMIA that he has ‘a prejudicial security assessment ‘. What makes his security assessment prejudicial, no-one is saying, least of all Phillip Ruddock. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to add the circumstantial numbers together and arrive at the obvious answer. ASIO is acting on Government instructions in regard to Mr Ahmed and anyone else like him. Mr Ahmed isn’t allowed to travel to the US, ergo he’s not allowed, by default it seems, to travel to Australia. Our alliance relationship is clearly that important to the Howard government. Just how do you spell lock-step?

Mr Ahmed himself sums the situation up quite succinctly.

“I was released without charge and our Government has given me a passport and I’ve been travelling around the world since I came out from Guantanamo … It’s quite strange, stupid really. If I’m not a threat to my own country then I’m definitely not a threat to another country.”

Of course, there are many who will judge the man on what they choose to believe, as opposed to what the facts present. That’s why Australia is embroiled in the Iraqi quagmire, and why our Muslim community live in fear of constant criticism for simply adhering to their belief. It is all quite strange. Stupid really.