THE WAR ON TERROR: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Tony Blair's U-turn on Islamic extremism
, August 27, 2005
Britain's Prime Minister has acknowledged that there is a need to consider whether the policy of multiculturalism has resulted in ethnic groups failing to integrate, writes Peter Westmore.One of the secrets of New Labour's success in the UK was the way Tony Blair mobilised ethnic minorities electorally, in a way reminiscent of the methods employed by Labor governments in Australia in the 1980s and 1990s.
Among the constituencies he courted were the large populations of immigrants, and their children, from countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh and the West Indies.
As long as these voted Labour, the Blair Government's re-election in 2004 was almost a foregone conclusion. Mr Blair's support for the predominantly Muslim peoples of Bosnia and Kosovo during the Balkans war served him in good stead.
But since the al-Qaeda attack on America on September 11, 2001, Blair's Government has come under strong attack from radical Muslims in Britain.
Osama bin Laden's claim that President Bush's attack on Afghanistan was an attack on Islam resonated with sections of Britain's Muslim population, and many young Muslims were attracted to bin Laden's extremist brand of Islam, which mirrored the line of the Wahhabi sect, bankrolled by Saudi Arabian oil money.Divisions
The suicide bombings on the London Underground on July 7, 2005, confirmed these divisions. One particular group, the Hizb ut-Tahrir, has taken the lead in condemning the British Government.
Its website has stated: "America and Britain harbour a hidden hatred against Islam and the Muslims, and at the first opportunity show their hatred ... They forget their differences when it comes to Islam and the Muslims.
"The London explosions, which took place at the time of the G8 summit, revealed this crusader viewpoint and hatred of Islam and the Muslims to the extent that every Muslim in Britain, even British citizens, have come under suspicion where even some British organisations have begun calling openly for 'waging a crusader war to expel Muslims from the streets of Europe'."
In response, Tony Blair declared that he would proscribe this organisation, and if necessary would amend the law implementing the European Convention on Human Rights, if British and European judges continued to block the deportation of Islamic extremists in the wake of the London bombings.
This was a recognition that the Human Rights Act, introduced by Labour in 1998, had made it virtually impossible to deport foreign militants and enabled the courts to strike down anti-terrorism laws because they considered them incompatible with the European Convention.
Blair said he would amend laws which prevent the Home Secretary from deporting "preachers of hate" and other foreign nationals regarded as a threat to national security.
"Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary, amending the Human Rights Act in respect of the interpretation of the European Convention on Human Rights," Mr Blair said.
He outlined a sweeping package of anti-terrorist laws included deporting Islamic extremists, closing mosques that fomented hatred, outlawing radical Muslim groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, vetting foreign sheikhs coming to Britain and enacting stronger powers to deal with home-grown fanatics.
Mr Blair said that, because of the London bombings, the public wanted laws to deport and exclude religious fanatics and extremists who were abusing the country's traditional values of tolerance and fair play.
"Let no one be in any doubt," he said. "The rules of the games (sic.
) are changing."
New grounds for deportation, published by the Home Office, include fostering hatred, advocating or justifying violence, or active engagement with extremist websites, bookshops and networks.
Mr Blair acknowledged that, since 1996, deportations had been blocked as a result of a European Court ruling that Article 3 of the Convention on Human Rights prevented people from being sent back to countries where they could face torture or ill-treatment.
He said the circumstances of Britain's national security had changed and the Government was ready to test its new powers in the courts at home and in Europe.
Mr Blair said that France and Spain, both subject to the same human rights convention, were able to deport by administrative decision, with their courts ready to accept assurances that deportees would not be ill-treated on their return.
Not surprisingly, Mr Blair ran into opposition from civil-rights campaigners and the Liberal Democrats, who said the Government risked inflaming tensions and alienating Muslims.
However, some mainstream Muslim groups backed the measures. Omar Farook, of the Islamic Society of Britain, said that measures to deal with the menace of foreign extremists who based themselves in Britain were long overdue.
But the Muslim Council of Britain said a ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir, which it described as "avowedly non-violent", would be counter-productive.
Mr Blair acknowledged that there was now a need to consider whether the policy of multiculturalism had resulted in ethnic groups failing to integrate.