[Marxism] Overt racism, anti-free speech role of Blair antiterror bills alarms 'Economist' (reformatted in desperate effort to forestall tonguie-lashing()
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Aug 15 04:56:57 MDT 2005
DEALING WITH TRAITORS
** The British government's anti-terrorism proposals are wrong, both in
principle and in practice **
Economist August 11, 2005
"Let no one be in any doubt: the rules of the game are changing." Even
by Tony Blair's demotic standards, it was a stark response to last
month's bombings in London. Outlining on August 5th what he described
as a "heavy agenda" of 12 reforms to Britain's immigration and criminal
justice systems, Mr. Blair opened a new front in the war on terror.
Battle will now be joined not just with terrorist plotters, but also
with the extremists who inspire them. If the prime minister gets his
way, any foreigner who indulges in extremism, even if he does no more
than run an unsavory bookshop or website, will be deported. Naturalized
Britons will be stripped of their citizenship before being treated in
the same way. Troublesome outfits will be proscribed and their meeting
Quite right too, said the Conservative opposition and many of Britain's
newspapers. They want to see the back of men like Omar Bakri Mohammed,
the former leader of the now dissolved Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, who
has insisted that Muslims cannot be blamed for the London bombings or
the attacks on America. Nods of approval also came from France, which
already takes a tough line on the deportation of inflammatory preachers
and plans to speed up the exodus in the next few months. The French
disapprove of what they regard as an absurdly sensitive attitude to free
speech in Britain -- and resent it, too, since at least one man who they
believe was involved in bombings in Paris a decade ago took refuge in
Britain's anti-terror laws are among the toughest in the world -- not
surprisingly, given the long struggle against the Irish Republican Army.
But the legal system is not so tough on inflammatory speech, unless it
happens to be directed at a racial group. Although bringing firebrands
to book is possible under incitement and conspiracy laws, it means
proving a direct link with criminal acts, which is tricky. Evicting
foreign preachers is also difficult. That is not so much, as is often
claimed, because the European Convention on Human Rights has been
incorporated into British law, but because of the country's adversarial
legal system, together with a long history of sheltering troublemakers
who do not propose to carry out their plans on British soil.
"Londonistan" existed long before the Human Rights Act.
There are two good arguments for lowering the threshold for prosecution
and deportation. The first and most obvious is that extremism is the
pool in which terrorists swim: it inspires, supports, and justifies
them. Those who watch would-be terrorists say that radicalization often
begins with a chat with a charismatic agitator, although the sort of
loudmouths who give interviews to newspapers are much less dangerous
than the covert kind. Curtail offensive speech and the number of
potential bombers might fall. The second reason is that extremism
creates fear and resentment. Because they are liable to cause a
backlash, fiery Islamist clerics pose more danger to western Muslims
than to anybody else.
These arguments are seductive at a fearful time, yet they must be
resisted. The prime minister's proposals would serve the terrorists'
ends by undermining the civilization they attack. Free speech is not a
privilege, to be revoked if it is misused, but a pillar of democracy.
Threatening naturalized citizens with deportation if they flirt with
extremism, as the government intends, will create two classes of
citizen: the British-born and the rest. That will do incalculable harm
to race relations and undermine the inclusive British identity that
Labor has tried to nurture.
The government's proposals may also achieve the opposite of what is
intended by further alienating Britain's Muslims from their fellow
countrymen. Many say that, since the attacks on London, they feel under
suspicion. Now they fear that they will be punished for the sort of
violent speech that might be overlooked if it was, say, uttered by a
drunken football fan. For an indication of how far trust has already
broken down, compare the reaction to the bombings of July 7th and that
to the announcement of August 5th. A month ago, mainstream Muslim
leaders stood alongside politicians and promised to co-operate in the
struggle against home-grown terror. But since Mr. Blair revealed his
latest proposals, they have dug in their heels even against the banning
of extremist organizations that they formerly attacked.
The government says it will use the new powers it plans to acquire with
restraint. Trust us, it implies: only nasty Muslims will be targeted.
Everybody else can relax. But even if a government could be trusted to
keep such a promise, which none can be, it should not be accepted. Laws
are not created in order that undesirables may be put away. That is a
side effect. Their real purpose is to set down clear guidelines about
what is acceptable and what is not.
Mr. Blair is right that things are changing. People are scared, and are
therefore more inclined to trust government than they normally would.
That's dangerous. The sooner Britons' healthy wariness of government
returns, the better.
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