August 24, 2005

UK unveils grounds for banning hate preachers

By Madeline Chambers

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain on Wednesday released guidelines
for barring foreigners the government believes inspire
terrorism, as part of a broad crackdown on Islamist preachers
after last month's deadly bombings in London.

In a move that sparked sharp criticism from civil rights
groups, the government published a list of unacceptable
activities which would trigger deportation or an entry ban.

"The terrorist threat facing the UK remains real and
significant and it is right that the government and law
enforcement agencies do everything possible to counter it,"
said Interior Minister Charles Clarke.

"That includes tackling those who seek to foster hatred or
promote terrorism, sending a strong message that they are not
welcome in the UK."

Two waves of bomb attacks in London which killed 52
commuters in the capital last month prompted a series of new
anti-terrorism measures and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
says the "rules of the game are changing."

The list of activities deemed unacceptable, which covers
non-UK citizens in Britain or abroad, includes expressing
opinions which "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence"
or seeking to provoke others to commit terrorist acts.

The government said the guidelines, which take immediate
effect, applied to views conveyed through written or published
material, including websites, as well as public speaking.


"The proposals do nothing but unleash further Islamophobia
in British society," said the Islamic Human Rights Commission,
saying the plans represented a "criminalisation of thought."

Britain is home to 1.6 million Muslims, just under three
percent of the population. About two-thirds of British Muslims
hail from the Indian subcontinent.

Some experts say Blair is belatedly responding to criticism
that Britain's tradition of granting asylum to Middle East
dissidents, a practice that earned London the tag
"Londonistan," has helped foster a dangerously radical Islamist

"There's an element of this which is to prove to the
British public that the government is taking it very
seriously," said Michael Clarke of London's Center for Defense

He warned the new criteria would be challenged in court as
deportees will have the right to appeal.

Civil rights groups oppose any move that would lead to
suspects being sent to countries with a record of torture.

"We believe it's better for terrorist suspects to be tried
than shuffled around the world," said James Welch of Liberty.

Earlier this month, Britain pledged to deport 10 people,
including the alleged spiritual leader of al Qaeda in Europe,
Jordanian national Abu Qatada.

Britain is working on agreements with a number of countries
which it says will protect any deportees from ill treatment.