David Cameron Seeks New Powers to Combat Extremism in Britain

Stoking the debate over the balance between security and civil liberties, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to seek broad new police powers to combat the radicalization of Muslims in Britain and to end what he termed “passive” tolerance of extremism.

 

Mr. Cameron’s office said the proposals included a new system under which the police would be able to apply for “disruption orders” allowing them to restrict the activities of those thought to be radicalizing people. The orders would be overseen by the courts. Other measures likely to be revived by the British government include updating laws on the retention of records of phone calls, emails and other data, a plan that critics have called the “snoopers’ charter.”

 

The British proposals were drawn up after the murder in May 2013 of a British soldier, Lee Rigby, in a vicious daylight attack on a street in southeast London. Since then, a significant number of Britons are thought to have left the country to fight with jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq, and security officials are worried that some of them could return with training and motivation to carry out attacks at home.

 

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society,” Mr. Cameron said in comments released by his office. He added that by appearing to stand neutral between different values, society had “helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.”

 

Critics contend that the measures could drive radicals underground, allow a new category of individuals to be defined as extremists and undermine some of the liberties that underpin democracy.

Tories to Make Islamophobia a Hate Crime

Aiming to woo Muslim voters, the Tories announced plans to enforce new measure that would make anti-Muslim hate crimes as serious as anti-Semitic attacks, in case they won general elections next May 7. “We will require police forces to record anti-Muslim crimes as well as anti-Semitic crimes,” Home secretary, Theresa May, pledged in a speech on counter-extremism to the Foundation for Peace in London just before Parliament was dissolved, the Daily Mail reported. Under the new measures, police will be required to report Islamophobic attacks under a separate category like as anti-Semitic crimes.

The new proposal comes as Islamophobic attack across Europe reached unprecedented levels. It precedes elections in which Tories and Labours are competing to gain Muslim votes. According to TELL MAMA, the number of hate crimes targeting Muslim women has witnessed a 5-10% increase over the last 18 months. An earlier report by think-tank Chatham House identified a considerable Islamophobic sentiment in Britain, detecting a “wide reservoir of public sympathy for claims that Islam and the growth of Muslim communities pose a fundamental threat to the native group and nation.” Hundreds of anti-Muslim hate offences have been carried out across UK in 2013, with Britain’s Metropolitan police recording an increase of 49% more than 2012.

US must ‘destroy’ Islamic State, say religious conservatives

August 13, 2014

(RNS) A coalition of more than 50 religious leaders, led by mostly conservative Catholic, evangelical and Jewish activists, is calling on President Obama to sharply escalate military action against Islamic extremists in Iraq. They say “nothing short of the destruction” of the Islamic State can protect Christians and religious minorities now being subjected to “a campaign of genocide.”

“We represent various religious traditions and shades of belief,” the petition reads. “None of us glorifies war or underestimates the risks entailed by the use of military force.”

But they say the situation is so dire that relief for these religious communities “cannot be achieved apart from the use of military force to degrade and disable” the Islamic State forces.

The petition was organized by Robert P. George, a prominent Catholic conservative and Republican activist, and he was joined by a range of other leaders, many of whom are known for their hawkish views on foreign policy.

The Vatican on Wednesday (Aug. 13) released a letter that Pope Francis wrote to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealing to the world community “to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

While Francis called for “concrete acts of solidarity” by the U.N. and included security forces as part of the solution, he was careful not to promote a military response as the chief means for resolving the tragedy. Other Catholic officials in Rome and Iraq have said the U.S. airstrikes are viewed as necessary and morally justified but they are leery of actions that could lead to another U.S.-led military campaign.

The letter from the religious activists, mainly Americans, was much more forceful in calling for military action.

Baroness Warsi resigns from Conservative party over Gaza and warns Tories over attracting ethnic minorities

August 10, 2014

Former Conservative chairman Baroness Warsi says her party will not win the next election unless it does more to attract ethnic minority voters. She resigned as a government minister over the UK’s policy on Gaza last week but has now broadened her criticisms. Tory MP Alec Shelbrooke said her criticisms would soon be forgotten.

Lady Warsi became the first female Muslim cabinet minister when David Cameron became prime minister in 2010. In her newspaper interviews she also criticised “bitchy” male colleagues and repeated her anger at the government’s handling of the fighting in Gaza. She said: “I will be out there, vocally fighting for an outright Conservative majority. But the electoral reality is that we will not win outright Conservative majorities until we start attracting more of the ethnic vote.”

Lady Warsi said she was one of David Cameron’s earliest supporters in 2005, stating: “This is a guy who gets today’s Britain. He’s a new kind of Conservative. He’s comfortable with today’s Britain. I think the party has shifted since then. The party leadership has shifted since then. I think over time it will be a regressive move because we have to appeal to all of Britain, not just because it’s morally the right thing to do… but because it is an electoral reality.”

She called on the government to “recognise Palestine as a state” and impose an arms embargo on Israel. She also criticised Chancellor George Osborne and chief whip Michael Gove for not using their “very, very close” relations with the Israeli government to help end the hostilities. “What is the point of having that strong relationship if you can’t use it to move them to a position which is in their interests and our interests?”

She also rejected Mr Osborne’s claim that her resignation had been “unnecessary” by saying: “My actions would not have been necessary if he had done what he should have done, which is pick up the phone to people he is incredibly close to and say: ‘It’s unnecessary for you to meet your ends by taking out power stations, taking out homes, taking out schools and killing kids on beaches.'”

Mr Shelbrooke, who is the MP for Elmet and Rothwell, said Lady Warsi had “embarrassed herself” and her criticisms would “quickly fizzle out”. He said: “I think within a week, ‘Who was Lady Warsi?’ will be the question. She has ended her career in many ways. Isn’t it best to step down on a point of principle, but don’t you embarrass yourself if you start launching into a tirade about many other things, when you come from a position of having never held elected office.”

The Conservative Party said it would not comment on Lady Warsi’s newspaper interviews at the moment. Lady Warsi stood for election to the Commons in her home town of Dewsbury in 2005 but lost to Labour. She was appointed to the House of Lords in 2007. The government’s chief whip in the House of Lords is to replace Baroness Warsi as a Foreign Office minister, with the right to attend cabinet. Lord Taylor of Holbeach is the new Lords Chief Whip. Conservative MP Lord Bates, replaces Lord Taylor as parliamentary under secretary of state at the Home Office. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who paid warm tribute to Lady Warsi on Tuesday, will take over her faith brief, in addition to his existing responsibilities.

In her letter to the prime minister, Lady Warsi – the first Muslim woman to serve in a British cabinet – said: “I must be able to live with myself for the decisions I took or the decisions I supported. By staying in government at this time I do not feel that I can be sure of that.” Mr Cameron replied that he understood her “strength of feeling on the current crisis”, adding the situation in Gaza was “intolerable”, but he rejected her call to change direction.

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid said he had a “great deal of respect” for Baroness Warsi, adding that she had done “excellent work” for the Conservative Party and in government.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said Israel had “overstepped the mark” in the conflict and called for the suspension of arms export licences.

The prime minister has faced criticism from some in his own party for not condemning Israel for what they believe is its disproportionate use of force against Hamas and civilians in Gaza. But neither Mr Cameron nor any Conservative minister has said that Israel has gone beyond what is proportionate. The response from the new foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, was telling. What Lady Warsi has labelled a “morally indefensible” position he has dismissed as a call for “megaphone diplomacy”. He emphasised that he felt he had to be “balanced”.

Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC: “The government’s position is wrong and I think Sayeeda Warsi’s statement is completely right about this.” He said that Mr Cameron had to “think much more clearly” about policy on Gaza and had to “break his silence” over Israel’s actions.

But Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “I do find it rather surprising that she has chosen now, this particular moment, to take this step when, in fact, we are now at long last seeing some relief, seeing some progress on the issues about which she was so passionately concerned.”

David Cameron’s response to her resignation stated he had “much regret” she hadn’t talked to him about her concerns before she quit. But there was also a warm tribute. “I would like you to know how much I have personally appreciated your support and friendship over the years’ he wrote.

Heritage’s ugly Benghazi panel

June 16, 2014

Representatives of prominent conservative groups converged on the Heritage Foundation on Monday afternoon for the umpteenth in a series of gatherings to draw attention to the Benghazi controversy.

But this one took an unexpected turn.

What began as a session purportedly about “unanswered questions” surrounding the September 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya deteriorated into the ugly taunting of a woman in the room who wore an Islamic head covering.

The session, as usual, quickly moved beyond the specifics of the assaults that left four Americans dead to accusations about the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrating the Obama administration, President Obama funding jihadists in their quest to destroy the United States, Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton attempting to impose Sharia blasphemy laws on Americans and Al Jazeera America being an organ of “enemy propaganda.”

Then Saba Ahmed, an American University law student, stood in the back of the room and asked a question in a soft voice. “We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there’s 1.8 billion followers of Islam,” she told them. “We have 8 million-plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don’t see them represented here.”

Panelist Brigitte Gabriel of a group called ACT! for America pounced. She said “180 million to 300 million” Muslims are “dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization.” She told Ahmed that the “peaceful majority were irrelevant” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and she drew a Hitler comparison: “Most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and as a result, 60 million died.”

The panel’s moderator, conservative radio host Chris Plante, grinned and joined in the assault. “Can you tell me who the head of the Muslim peace movement is?” he demanded of Ahmed.

“Yeah,” audience members taunted, “yeah.”