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Know Your Rights: What to do when MI5 come knocking on your door

Since the start of the War on Terror, there has been consistent harassment of the Muslim community – and several non-Muslims too – by security agencies in the UK and abroad. There are many who will tell stories of how they were questioned by MI5, MI6, Special Branch and even the SAS while they were being tortured and mistreated by various security agencies abroad. Unfortunately in those circumstances, those people had absolutely no ability to exercise their rights in any way – for those who were complicit in their abuse, should have been the ones to protect them.

For those who were detained abroad, the fear of their situation was used by the security agencies in order to attempt to coerce them into working for the authorities. Those British citizens and residents who eventually ended up in Guantanamo Bay, at some point were offered work opportunities with the UK security agencies in order to save them from their situation – however they all chose to maintain their dignity by not allowing themselves to be subjected to such bribes.

In the UK, there are various forms of police and security harassment taking place against the Muslim community. Poor intelligence gathering and a system of profiling (which is actually stereotyping – treating all Muslims as if they are terrorist suspects) has resulted in the most serious breaches of human rights. We should never forget that when the police murdered Jean Charles de Menezes, they assumed they were killing a Muslim.

At Cageprisoners we receive a number of calls each week complaining about the treatment that Muslims are receiving by various agencies. It is time to redress the balance by informing the public of their rights. There is no reason why anyone should feel intimidated into cooperating with the security agencies beyond what the law requires, particularly when they attempt to use powers beyond what is acceptable.

Below are various circumstances under which you could be stopped, detained or harassed by various agencies. We will try and provide the appropriate response to each circumstance. What follows only applies in England and Wales; in Scotland and Northern Ireland the law may be slightly different.

Stop and search

According to the Met Police website:

“A police officer, or a community support officer must have a good reason for stopping or searching you and they are required to tell you what that reason is.

There are, however, occasions when the police can search anyone in a certain area, for example when there is evidence that serious violence has taken place or may take place, (Powers under S60 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994). The officer should explain this to you and must be searching for items to be used in connection with violence

You should not be stopped just because of your age, race, ethnic background, nationality, faith, the language you speak or because you have committed a crime in the past.

The police can stop or stop and search you:

·         If they think you’re carrying a weapon, drugs or stolen property

·         If there has been serious violence or disorder in the vicinity

·         If they are looking for a suspect who fits your description

·         As part of anti-terrorism efforts.

The police who stop and search you must provide you with certain information including:

·         Their name and the station where they work (unless the search is in relation to suspected terrorist activity or giving his or her name may place the officer in danger. They must then give a warrant card or identification number)

·         The law under which you have been stopped

·         Your rights

·         Why you have been stopped and searched

·         Why they chose you

·         What they are looking for

The police officer will ask for your name and address and date of birth. You do not have to give this information if you don’t want to, unless the police officer says they are reporting you for an offence.

Everyone who is stopped or stopped and searched will be asked to define his or her ethnic background. You can choose from a list of national census categories that the officer will show you. 

You do not have to say what it is if you don’t want to, but the officer is required to record this on the form. The ethnicity question help community representatives make sure the police are using their powers fairly and properly.”

Police search powers only extend as far as checking the bag (or item(s)) you are carrying and checking your pockets. They can also ask you to remove your coat, hat and gloves, but nothing else. They are not permitted to ask you questions about where you are coming from or going to.

Always be polite yourself, and do not be confrontational, however annoyed you feel. If you can, report what has happened to you to a national or local monitoring group, or even to your local Citizens Advice Bureau, and ask them to keep a record. Also, make a record yourself.

Police questioning

You are not obliged to answer any of the questions the police put to you. If you are not arrested, you have no obligation whatsoever to answer any questions by the police. If they try and push you, you can politely tell them that you would be happy to speak with them, but only in the presence of your solicitor.

If you are arrested, you have the right to ask for a lawyer. It is better to know the best criminal lawyers in advance; however, a duty solicitor will usually be adequate to deal with any initial questioning you may be facing. However, you should ensure that, if you are charged, afterwards you should give instructions to a lawyer with experience in the field of terrorism, rather than a duty solicitor, who may not know how to adequately deal with your case. 

Even if you are arrested, you are not obliged to answer questions. You have the right to remain silent, but if you do so and are later charged with an offence, your refusal to answer questions may be taken into account. Therefore, a lawyer’s advice is essential. Be careful not to enter into idle conversation with the police – they do not have the right to ask you anything not connected to an alleged offence, so do not give them any details about your family or personal circumstances, or those of anyone else. If you are arrested, your best defence is not to answer any questions and just ask for a lawyer.

MI5 questioning

You will rarely find a circumstance where MI5 will simply knock on your door politely and ask to speak to you in order for help. You may be stopped on the street for a casual chat, they might use a police officer to pretend to be postmen, they might turn up at your house early in the morning, your place of work, at the airport as you’re leaving or entering the country, call you on the phone and ask to meet you at a Novotel hotel or they will use some other unsuspicious means to approach you.

The goal of MI5 is to gather intelligence and they will try their hardest to extract as much as they can from you with each meeting. Anything they may offer, in terms of monetary incentives/jobs, is solely for their own benefit and not yours – and it is worth remembering that. Again, never think that any question they ask is innocent. Don’t give away any personal details about yourself or anyone else, however harmless they might seem.

You are under no obligation to speak with MI5 if they approach you. They cannot arrest you for not cooperating with them and so if they do come to speak with you, then you can politely tell them that you prefer not to speak to them and that if they persist in trying to speak to you, you will call your solicitor (who will advise you to say nothing).

Much of the system MI5 has been operating in the Muslim community has been on the basis of fear and intimidation, however, once you know your rights, there really is nothing to be afraid of.

Questioning when entering or exiting ports

Under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, the police have been given a wide range of powers that can be particularly intrusive. When entering or existing a port, the police can detain you up to 9 hours in order to question you without giving you access to a solicitor. By law you are obliged to answer their questions, otherwise they can arrest you and take you to a police station in order to question you further – however at that point you can have access to a solicitor.

The general advice that has been given by solicitors at this time, is that it is prudent to answer the questions that are being asked at the port itself, rather than being arrested and taken to the police station. You do not have to give detailed answers beyond what is asked of you and it is better to remain accurate and succinct in any responses.

If MI5 try and approach you at the port, you are not obliged to answer their questions. It is important that you always try and clarify who you are speaking to, as often the authorities will send immigration officers, the police and MI5 without you necessarily knowing who is who. It is worthwhile keeping a small notepad and a pen with you so that you can take down any relevant badge numbers and questions that they may ask – this helps in order to ascertain the methods with which the laws are being used in order to profile Muslims. Always ask to whom you are speaking, and try to get a name, or, if they will not give you a name, ask which agency they are from – police, immigration or MI5. Note the time and the date. Ask them under what legal powers they are questioning you. Always be polite and non-confrontational, but treat the person questioning you as an equal. Have in the back of your mind that they are a public servant, doing their job, but paid for out of taxpayers’ money, and therefore accountable for their actions.

Is it not better to have a casual chat and have it done with?

In many circumstances, I have often come across people who assumed it would be better that they just spoke at that time despite having no obligation to do so and without the presence of the solicitor. The assumption was always that the authorities would go away due to the cooperation. This is nearly never the case. Once you open the door to cooperating outside of your legal rights, our evidence shows that they are prone to increase the questioning, infringe upon your rights and will pressurise you to effectively spy on your own community.

The intelligence community is trained to extract evidence, and so you do not know how things you may say may affect you or someone else, unbeknownst to you the entire time. By keeping your answers very short and, if necessary, having a layer of protection through lawyers, who can always ensure that any questions relate strictly to you, you can make sure that your position is not abused.

At a press conference that Cageprisoners put together last year on the state of profiling and MI5 harassment in the Muslim community, when one of our panellists was asked why it was wrong to speak with MI5, he said it was not wrong, but just that it did not make sense for them to pretend to be postmen to speak with him or get him to work for them. It just was not the right way of doing things.  

Fear and intimidation should not become a daily part of our lives in the UK, and the only way we can stop that from setting in, is by knowing our rights and always living under the assumption that we deserve to be treated with full due regard and respect.



Notes: * A thank you to the contribution to this article by Jane Winter, Director of British Irish RIGHTS WATCH.
Sources: www.islam21c.com & www.cageprisoners.com
islam21c requests all the readers of this article, and others, to share it on your facebook, twitter, and other platforms to further spread our efforts.

About Asim Qureshi

Dr Asim Qureshi is a Human Rights Lawyer and is Co-DIrector of CAGE UK (previously known as Cageprisoners) where he works as the senior researcher. Asim has led investigations into Pakistan, Bosnia, Kenya, Sudan, Sweden, USA and around the UK. With his team of researchers, he has written and published many reports exposing the use of unlawful detention, rendition, and torture in the 'war on terror'. He is also the author of the book, "Rules of the Game: Detention, Deportation, Disappearance". The work analyses the global detention policies in the 'War on Terror' post 11th September 2001 and the impact on those most affected.


  1. IPCC are useless

    The IPCC are as corrupt as the cops and MI5. Each is in the others pockets.

  2. Yoou actully make itt eem really easy together wjth your
    presentation but I in finding this matter to be really onee thing which
    I think I would never understand. It sort of feels
    too complicated and vefy huge for me. I am taking a look ahead for your next put
    up, I’ll attemlt to get the hang of it!

  3. Very nice post, I haven’t seen such a great contents before. The description of topic and the beauty of writing skills are amazing, awesome. Keep up the great work. Thank you so much.

  4. If you do not like it leave .
    I been in the UK almost 3 years , I do love Britian and now am working at Telecome company in the Mideast , anyway I have a question for all of you . Do you love Britian ? If yes stay there if not leave it . It is easy . All of you came to the UK poor , without food or even cloths . British ppl feed you and they still doing that , the majority of all of you do not work and still taking money from the government . I have not seen bad ppl in my life like I did in the UK when I meet Muslim ppl who live in the UK . Ask your self what kind of person am would be if am living at my orgenal country !!!!!! Nothing so be a free man and leave the country if you do not like it or be part of that great nation work hard , do shoping , read useful book , go ciname , have dinner at Itanian restaurant and enjoy you life and not saying drink …. I just say be human not evil .


  5. Salam
    Brothers and sisters, if you don’t have anything to hide then as a Muslim I would encourage all to cooperate with law enforcement. And if you do know or suspect anything then to volunteer that information. You might be saving lives. Remember Allah says “..and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity.”

    We need to weed out the Muslims that are giving Islam a bad name. Stand away from them, make them feel the cold wind of loneliness. Insha-Allah one day there will come a time when we won’t see Muslims on the news committing heinous crimes against innocent people. One day Muslims will be known as people of peace, who don’t say “Salam” just for lip service but say it because they believe and practice it.

    Salam brothers and sisters

  6. MI5 do coming knocking
    @Kay Chowdary – I’m afraid your point is incorrect. My work over the last 7 years has provided me with enough anecdotal evidence to quite clearly state that MI5 do coming knocking on the door, sometimes pretending to be postmen! Your point relates to when an arrest is made, however it does not stop them coming to your home and harassing you.

  7. Kay Chowdhury

    MI5 knocking on doors? :S
    i thought i’d point out that MI5 agents do not knock on suspects’ doors. The intelligence agency usually hands the information over to Scotland Yard. Counter-Terrorism officers then make the necessary arrest/s. MI5 just shares intelligence. 🙂

  8. Question – What to do when Islamists come knocking at your door if you are a Christian in Pakistan
    Answer – Just accept that they are going to kill you like your Lord and Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified.
    You are going to have to carry your cross like He did.
    Because Islamists are only doing what the Prophet told his followers to do with infidels.
    But God’s son will be waiting for you with open arms (and nail prints in His hands) – your reward will not be 70 virgins (the reward for blowing the limbs off innocent victims) but entering into the joy of the Lord.
    The joy that countless Muslims are finding here and now as they find out that God is love and he loved them so much that His Son was prepared to give His life for them.

  9. Detained first time when returning to Gatwick Airport
    salam alaikum,

    I recently returned from a trip to spain with my wife. upon entering the terminal at gatwick and at passport control, the woman at the desk said “oh you reported your passport lost or stolen?” I said no I have never reported it lost or stolen, she then said hold on please, went away to speak to someone else then i was placed in the ‘holding area’ then my wife came and sat with me after noticing the delay. then a guy in a suit approached me and took me away, then a woman came and sat down with my wife and said she will tell her whats going on, she was given the choice of get lost or stay, she prefered to wait for me, while i was taken to another part of the building.

    the man took me to collect my luggage and said hes a police officer and they are questioning me under section 7 of blah blah… and that was it, they then told me they will take my photos,fingerprint and DNA, that if i refuse they will just ring someone for authorisation and get it anyway so i might aswell comply, so I did. it was pretty thorough, they basically finger printed all my fingers, both hands including my palms. they searched me and my luggage, told me i am not allowed to have any recording devices, made me place my phone, wallet, keys into some tray and they took it to another room. they asked if i had a laptop, to which i replied no. glad i did not as they might study it and make me spend even longer time there. they made me hold up a piece of paper with a number on it, then took several photos, making me feel like a convicted criminal. I asked for a solicitor when they asked me a second time as I had no idea what will happen to me. I spoke with a duty solicitor on the phone and he just said its no different to being stopped on the streets by an officer, and to just answer all their questions and you should be out of there very soon. so when interview started I was just honest and answered there questions. they asked me what my religion is, told them I’m muslim, they asked me what my religious views are like, am i sunni? how often I go to the mosque? do i plan on going to pakistan or afghanistan? do you make charity donations? is it done through the mosque? do i come into contact with people with extremist views? they asked me for my address, email address,phone number, all the names of my brothers and sisters, what they do, where they live, asked me about nearly all my previous travels, where i went, why, who did i go with, what did i do. they also asked me about my employment, after all that they said im free to go. a man saying he is a supervisor asked if i have any complaints, was offered a glass of water, use of toilet and access to solicitor.

    if anyone else experiences this, i advise them just to answer their questions or they will just arrest you, take you to a police station and then ask all the questions etc.

  10. Dr. Hamid Rasool

    Know Your Rights. “The Clash”, London, England
    That is good deed for you to inform muslims that it should be recognized that governments are established of the people, by the people and for the people. I wanted also to remind Islam21c readers of the massive equal rights violation which took place here in the USA in 2003. The USA government ordered a roundup of all men between the ages of 15 and 45 whose country of origin would indicate that the men are of the muslim religion. This roundup occurred with the sheep-like cooperation of the singled-out muslims despite my advice to the headquarters of a major American muslim organization as a licensed attorney that the roundup order should be refused as being violative of the USA organic law requiring equal protection. USA laws must protect groups and individuals equally, so that no racial or religious group, for example, is supposed to be singled out by USA law either for special benefit or special penalty.
    This muslim roundup may not be all bad, though. The international rogue state ‘israel’ is finally being accurately identified today as the Talmud-following synagogue of satan, we will be able to refer to the muslim roundup as precedent for a similar national security roundup of those in the USA claiming to be jews. Just as the muslims were personally interviewed in 2003 as to personal matters during the USA roundup of muslims, so we can also seek to possibly relieve our current national economic and war miseries by also rounding up and examining those claiming to be jews. It would be interesting to question each jew-claimer, for example, regarding the extent of his or her reliance on racist provisions recently exposed on Youtube.com of the Talmud volumes and to question them as to the sources and legitimacy of their wealth because it appears that Talmudic authorization has incited them to deal harshly and oppressively with those not claiming membership in their group.


    Dr. H. Rasool
    Attorney at Law
    California, USA
    (Cal. Lic. # 56448)

  11. Complain to the IPCC
    I have read through some of your comments and being a non-Muslim i feel ashamed that people are treated this way. I would suggest that whenever anyone becomes a victim of this harassment to always lodge a complaint with the (IPCC) Independent Police Complaints Commission about your treatment, in fact, inundate them with complaints. Always refer back to their code of practice on how you should be treated. If the IPCC has countless logs for police harassment (this can be i think can be obtained under freedom of information act) be sent to your MP, who also has to look into it, but what you’ll have is a paper trail of issues which can show discrimination/unfair harassment etc… hope what i have written maybe of some help.

  12. Not Answering at a Port
    Assalaamu Alaykum,

    Can someone also add or clarify. I was also under the assumption that not only can you be arrested for not cooperating/answering questions when you enter the UK airports but that they can also impose a fine of £2000.

    Wassalaamu Alaykum

  13. Changes to laws
    As far as I’d be concenred, the police will probably try to push for a law allowing them to stop anyone at will without having any good reason or be held accountable. Pretty much what happened in America with Patriot act, etc…

  14. Riaz Khan Hazarvi

    Helping Hand
    Mashah Allah these informations are very helpful.So use these informations against the evils and you will defeat them in their own game.

  15. Detained at the airport ‘for no other reason than I’m a Muslim returning from the Hajj’
    Continuation of previous post…

    The two officers then conducted a taped interview in which they asked about me, my address, work, pay, bank account, credit cards, how I found the Hajj tour operator, if I knew anyone else on the tour, where I had ravelled in the world, why I travelled to Israel, a day-by-day account of my movements in Saudi, if I knew anyone else in Saudi, if I had visited Africa, North America, the Middle East, the Far East, Europe… they asked such detailed and comprehensive questions.

    They took copies of all my paperwork, credit cards, bank cards, and kept my phone and sim cards.

    When they had the results back from their various checks, I was then marched to the front of the station feeling extremely cold with no coat or jumper, hungry and tired and was told that a bus ran from the front of the station. I was not going to be taken back to Heathrow airport where I was originally detained and from where the trains ran. I requested that at the very least I might be afforded the courtesy to be returned to the point of detention, ie Terminal 4 where I could catch a train home – to which Officer Razzak glibly retorted that technically we were still in the airport. So I left in the freezing weather with my luggage and waited for a bus.

    I continue to feel utterly humiliated and violated, and that all my privacy and dignity as a human being has been stripped – my personal text messages, my clothes, my finances, my contacts, my bank accounts, my DNA, my fingerprints and pictures were all taken…for what, when I have never been arrested before in my life, never committed a crime and there was not even any suspicion of terrorism on me?

    I would like to ask the Government that if the Muslim community itself is key to defeating the scourge of terrorism, as is so often claimed, why do the security services (and politicians who empower the former with draconian legislation) think that by treating innocent Muslims like this, they will endear the community to the security services? When the hundred or so members of my family and social circle ask me about my Hajj – what will I tell them? That the country of my birth and citizenship detains me under anti- terror legislation for no other reason than I’m a Muslim returning from the Hajj? That in effect, if you’re a UK citizen and happen to be of the Muslim faith then you run the very real risk of being detained and “examined” for quite literally no reason and no suspicion?

    Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 is an extremely harmful and counterproductive piece of legislation both from a human-rights standpoint and also from a community-cohesion point of view. It is alienating innocent Muslims in their droves, leading to very widespread feeling of victimisation and actually propelling people towards an isolationist point of view.

    The Met Police were not available for comment.

  16. Detained at the airport ‘for no other reason than I’m a Muslim returning from the Hajj’
    Great Article!… I would like to share the following expereience written by a brother that returned from Hajj just a few months ago!

    Detained at the airport ‘for no other reason than I’m a Muslim returning from the Hajj’

    By Nawaz Malik

    On November 23 2010 I returned on a Gulf Air flight from Jeddah to Heathrow, via Bahrain.

    I had been on a two-week deluxe Hajj package trip with my elderly mother when I was taken aside by border control at Terminal 4.

    Both my elderly mother and I were very tired and ill after both an arduous hajj and a delayed flight and were desperately looking forward to getting home for a shower and some rest.

    An Asian counter terrorism SO15 (Special Branch) Officer separated us from each other and took me to a side room, leaving my mother with a female officer.

    He told me I had been flagged because I have two passports – which he (bizzarly) claimed was illegal. I explained that I had only decided to obtain a second passport because my first one had an Israeli stamp on it – which would have prevented me from obtaining a Hajj visa. The passport agency had confirmed that I was entitled to apply for a second passport and subsequently issued it.

    The Special Branch Officer handed me two documents and explained that I was being detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. He also made it clear that he had no previous intelligence on me or specific questions he wished to ask me, and that the only reason that I had been flagged up was that I had two British passports.

    I replied that having two passports is hardly uncommon and certainly not illegal. At any rate, now that I had provided an explanation, and it was clear there was no intelligence-led terrorism evidence against me, nor any suspicion of terrorism – why was anti-terrorism legislation being used to detain me?

    He said that this was the only piece of legislation that allowed him to detain me. I told him that this was an outrageous abuse of power and a disgraceful way in which to treat a sickly individual returning from a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage with his sick, elderly mother. I likened my detention to that of the infamous holocaust-survivor Walter Wolfgang being arrested under anti-terrorist legislation for merely heckling Jack Straw at a conference in 2005. He handed me a leaflet and piece of paper with a summary of what he was entitled to carry out under the Terrorism Act.

    I asked that my mother be informed and that she be told to arrange for a solicitor. The officer then said that he was not obliged to wait for the arrival of my solicitor and began to conduct his “examination” interview.

    I confirmed my name, date of birth, address and other basic information but I refused to answer what religion I was. Shortly after, he asked if I consented to my DNA and fingerprints being taken. I did not, and resisted his attempts to convince me to provide consent. He then said he would take me to a police station where an officer would, de rigour, provide him with the necessary power.

    I was marched through the terminal by three officers in plain view of all of my fellow Hajj group members, humiliated with all staring at me as if I was a common criminal and put into the back of a police van. During the journey, I felt sickly due to the cold van as well as lack of sleep and food. I had never seen the interior of a police van before in my life.

    The Special Branch Officer drove the police van to the nearby Heathrow police station and when letting me out referred to me as a ‘prisoner’. My solicitor called at that moment and provided basic legal advice in which he stated that I was legally bound to answer their questions but that I should not answer questions to do with my faith or beliefs.

    Rather disturbingly, my solicitor added that this use of Schedule 7 was becoming a regular occurrence at Heathrow and that police were using it to search for anything and everything. The police officer granted authority to the Special Branch Officer to obtain my DNA, fingerprints and photographs.

    Comprehensive fingerprints were taken from both hands and mouth swaps for DNA. Then I was taken to an interview room with him and the other female officer from Terminal 4 where both of my luggage bags were examined. I felt humiliated that all my details were exposed there in front of the two officers – my mobile phone, my Saudi and UK sims, all my private text messages, my contacts, my credit cards, bank details, my underwear and clothes, my work pass. They turned my copy of the Qur’an upside-down, flicking through it for a period of time to see if it contained anything. I felt like a lowly criminal.

    see next post for continuation…..

  17. Good good
    MaashaAllah, really useful article! It came right after I was questioned.

  18. na
    Thanks for this, it was helpful

  19. Know Your Rights: What to do when MI5 come knocking on your door
    As Salaamu 3alaikum

    back in November of 2002, I was interviewed at length by the Federal Police here in Australia. I cooperated thinking that I had nothing to hide and that ‘honesty was the best policy’. Biggest mistake! I ended up receiving 4 1/2 years imprisonment and am now completing another 4 1/2 years parole – finishes in November of 2011. My advice – whatever you do insist upon a lawyer present and say nothing!

    As Salaamu 3alaikum

  20. Some very helpful tips
    I’m really glad this is up. Many thanks to Jane Winter. I hope everyone can take some notes from this article and act accordingly if such situations should arise.

    I would like to add that many officers and agents will look for ways to anger you. I have seen many situations where they play with your emotions and will try and break you. It will give them a reason to arrest, fine you and waste your time further. If you use foul language with them they can arrest you but on minor occasions they will fine you. YES, you swear with your mouth? Then you pay!!! So be careful people. Stop and think before you say anything and act wisely.

  21. Muslimforever

    Great article
    Ma sha Allah, very helpful. Allah is the source of all strength

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