The family of Mohammed Atif Siddique, the Scottish student convicted this week of al-Qaeda terrorist offences, have come together to tell of their heartache and their anger at the way he has been treated.
They described how their son adopted a stricter Islamic way of life, a change that fractured their close relationship and ultimately led to his conviction. But they insisted Atif – who faces at least ten years in prison – was not a terrorist and that his actions were similar to those of thousands of ordinary young Muslims seeking answers about al-Qaeda and the “war on terror”.
In a wide-ranging interview, the family claimed “thousands” of other people ran the risk of falling foul of the same offences for which Atif was convicted. They said he had been criminalised for carrying out research on al-Qaeda.
Atif was the first person in Scotland to be convicted under controversial new terror laws that have raised questions about the balance between civil liberties and protecting the public.
Speaking exclusively to The Scotsman, Mohammed Siddique, the father of the 21-year-old, said: “After what’s happened to my son, stop your children going on the internet in case they end up in jail. The sad thing is, why shouldn’t our young people be able to find out what is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan? Does it mean every child that goes on to a website is considered to be a terrorist? Thousands of young people in the Muslim community will have accessed the same material.”