The paranoia and manufactured threat surrounding Muslims has been accompanied by an upsurge in the activity of Australia’s spy agencies, most prominently ASIO. This includes both overt and covert attempts to elicit information from people and in some cases entrap them.

There is a fine line between caution and paranoia, and our situation today certainly doesn’t require the latter. However, vigilance and some basic awareness of this issue is necessary so that members of the Muslim community do not find themselves victim to infamous machinations which we’ve all heard about. Here are some tips to keep in mind, and if you do, chances are you won’t get spooked!

  1. Be wary of people whose past cannot be explained

In many infamous cases in Muslim communities in the West, spies have been “embedded” into mosque communities, volunteer groups and other such related initiatives. They appear out of the abyss, with pasts that either cannot be explained or do not make sense. They often appear to be notoriously private individuals about whom it is difficult to know personal details. Often, as in Denmark and the USA, they appear as “convert Muslims”, thus putting on the pretence of estranged families or similar.

If a seemingly well-intentioned individual seems overly eager to join hands with you in some initiative without you being able to know or explain much about them, it would be worth pausing and ensuring that you are not in fact dealing with an agent pretending to be a sincere, concerned Muslim. Keep your guard up in such cases.

  1. Online discussions: be careful who you acquaint with!

The Internet is a notorious place for trolls, spies and covert operatives. There are many infamous cases of intelligence agencies setting up false pseudonyms to either draw people into revealing incriminating information or, worse, entrapping people. The case of “Nusaiybah”, an alleged “nurse living in Damascus and helping Syrian rebels” is a case in point. “She” turned out to be a CIA agent who entrapped many Muslims, all of whom are now in jail.

In short: if you don’t know who you are interacting with online, be wary of them, especially if they have what seem to be fake profiles on social media. Suspect generic profiles that seem curiously blaze and care-free. Few Muslims in today’s environment operate without caution; if you come across profiles that do, it is worth being cautious.

  1. If ASIO calls, you are under no obligation to meet them

To get a call from ASIO is not uncommon! Many people, both those active in the Muslim community and those not necessarily so, have received such phone calls. ASIO tries to throw the net wide, attempting to elicit useful information, recruit undercover agents, and intimidate people into divulging information that helps ASIO keep a tab on activism in the community.

If you receive such a call, you are under no legal obligation to meet with ASIO. The only scenario that makes you obliged to meet ASIO is if they mention they have a warrant. As such, if ASIO calls, turn down their request. Oh, and since you’re probably already thinking it:

  1. No – Meeting with ASIO doesn’t “get you on their safe side”!

“But surely if I have nothing to hide and I meet them, there is no harm done, right?”

Not necessarily. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to hide! Why the need to meet with an agency that treats the entire community as possessors of knowledge of criminal activities or similar? In many cases an initial meeting with ASIO has turned into a prolonged relationship that people find it hard to get out of, with ASIO agents using language that convinces people it is in their “best interests” to “keep the relationship active”. All the while the person had done nothing to begin with!

So insist on your right not to meet, and ignore repeated attempts by phone. Yes, hang up!

  1. If ASIO come knocking, turn them away

Even if the spooks turn up on your door step (again, not an uncommon occurrence), politely decline their request to talk and insist on your legal right not to. The only exception, again, is if they have a warrant to interrogate you.

If they use intimidating language, or suggest it is in your “best interests” to meet and talk, call their bluff! They play this game with all and sundry, and very often it is with the hope of getting inside your head. Refuse to meet with them and tell them to stop treating you like the security threat you are not.

  1. “The best way to send cockroaches scurrying is to turn on the lights”

Been visited or intimidated by ASIO? Tell someone. Tell your friends, family, or those you trust, and if you have a lawyer, feel free to tell them too. You can also use initiatives such as GIMC (gimc.org.au) to report their attempts. Provided there was no warrant and no interrogation, there is no legal bar on you doing so! In fact, it is important that the community knows the evolution of ASIO’s predatory tactics, so bring it to the attention of others so they can be wary of the same.

  1. If in doubt, get legal advice

If ASIO persist in meeting with you and continue to harass you – particularly without a warrant – get legal advice. We’ve provided some legal contacts at the end of this booklet; give either them or your own legal avenues a call and get some advice on how to deal with the situation.

  1. You will be asked to work for ASIO: expect it!

Almost everyone – from the most unknown to well-known people in the Muslim community – are recruitment targets for ASIO. They offer – either explicitly or implicitly – almost everyone they meet with the chance to “develop a relationship” with them, often appealing to people’s insecurities in the process.

Know that you are not alone or unique in this and they’ve tried this on thousands. Needless to say, it is outright haram (forbidden) to co-operate in any way with spy agencies or to spy on Muslims. It is a grievous crime for which only Allah can give just punishment. As such, refuse their overtures at all times and do your best not to let there be a voice inside your head telling you otherwise.

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