Britain could deport foreigners inciting hatred under new anti-terror measures
LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed strict anti-terror measures Friday that would allow Britain to expel foreigners who preach hatred, close extremist mosques and bar entry to Muslim radicals. “The rules of the game are changing” following last month’s bomb attacks, he declared.The proposals, which also target extremist Web sites and bookshops, are aimed primarily at excluding radical Islamic clerics accused of whipping up hatred and violence among vulnerable, disenfranchised Muslim men.”We are angry. We are angry about extremism and about what they are doing to our country, angry about their abuse of our good nature,” Blair said. “We welcome people here who share our values and our way of life. But don’t meddle in extremism because if you meddle in it … you are going back out again.”Also Friday, police charged three men with failing to disclose information about the whereabouts of a suspect in the failed July 21 London bomb attacks. Police did not name the suspect. The wife and sister-in-law of Hamdi Issac, a suspected July 21 attacker, face similar charges, as does another man.The July 7 suicide attacks on London’s transit system and the failed July 21 attacks raised fresh concern about the freedoms Britain offers to individuals and groups known for extremist activities. Blair said the focus of the anti-terror proposals was on foreigners because authorities believe “the ideological drive and push is coming from the outside.”But some members of Britain’s 1.8 million-strong Muslim community expressed concern that moderate Muslims would be subjected to new prejudices and restrictions.Britain has been criticized for lagging behind its European neighbors in responding to terrorism. Since last month’s attacks, France has expelled two extremist Muslim prayer leaders and plans to ship home eight others. Italian authorities deported eight Palestinian imams.As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain is not allowed to deport people to a country where they may face torture or death.Blair is hoping to win pledges from countries that deportees would not be subjected to inhumane treatment. An agreement has already been reached with Jordan, and London is talking to Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.The prime minister said he would consider asking Parliament to reconvene next month – rather than October – to take up the proposals. Other measures, such as broadening the grounds for deportation, can be enacted immediately.Blair said the government was prepared to amend human rights legislation if legal challenges proved insurmountable.Under the proposals, anyone who preaches hatred or violence could be deported, those linked to terrorism would be automatically refused asylum and steps would be taken to make it easier to strip naturalized citizens of their British citizenship if they preached violence.The government also will consider a request from police and security services to hold terror suspects for three months without charge. The limit is 14 days. The measures also would extend the use of home arrest for Britons who cannot be deported.New powers would be created to allow the closure of mosques that foment extremism.Authorities will draw up lists of radical preachers who will not be allowed to enter Britain, and a list of radical Web sites and bookstores. Any foreigner who “actively engages” with those places could face deportation.Membership in extremist Islamic groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir would also become a crime.It was not immediately clear how the measures would have affected those suspected in last month’s attacks. Three of the suspected July 7 bombers, who killed 56 people including themselves, were Pakistani Britons; the fourth moved from Jamaica as a child. At least three of the four men in custody for allegedly carrying out out the botched attacks July 21 were immigrants from East Africa.The proposals, however, could affect their ideological leaders.Sheikh Omar Bakri, who has frequently shrugged off allegations that he preaches extremism, criticized Blair’s proposals, particularly suggestions that he could be targeted for remarks made years ago.”If they believed what I said was illegal, why didn’t they arrest me at the time? They know my work well,” he told The Associated Press. He said he works to address “the anger and frustration so many youth feel.”He said if asked to go, he would return to Lebanon rather than challenge the decision.Iqbal Sacranie, who heads the Muslim Council of Britain, said his early response was concern. “Our democratic values need to be upheld, not undermined,” he said.Other Muslims called the proposals long overdue. “Day after day these lunatics on our behalf … are really messing up our lives here,” Omar Farooq, also of the Islamic Society of Britain, told the British Broadcasting Corp.Meanwhil, the Metropolitan Police said Shadi Sami Abdel Gadir, 22, Omar Almagboul, 20, and Mohamed Kabashi, 23, were charged Friday with withholding information that they “knew or believed might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction” of a terrorist suspect.The charges against them bring to six the number of people accused of withholding vital information. London police are holding 11 people in addition in connection with the failed July 21 attacks.Also Friday, a trustee of a London mosque said mosque leaders warned police in 2003 about a group of extremists that included July 21 bombing suspect Issac.Toaha Qureshi, trustee of the Stockwell Mosque in south London, said mosque leaders wrote to police urging action against the group.”If they had done something then I don’t know how many lives we could have saved,” Qureshi said. He said the extremists eventually were expelled by mosque leaders.The Metropolitan Police declined it considered all correspondence it received confidential and could not comment.