Human rights concerns kept MI5 from passing on information about Abdulmutallab

MI5 failed to alert US intelligence about the extremist links of the Detroit plane bomber because of concerns about breaching his human rights and privacy. The spy agency withheld its files on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from Washington until after the near-catastrophic Christmas Day attack because of guidance from its legal department.

Asked why the information had not been passed to the US, a Home Office official said the security service did not pass information to its allies about the thousands of Britons who were merely suspected of having radical Islamic views. It did so only after it classified individuals as progressing into the much smaller category of “violent extremists”, a term used by MI5 to define potential or actual terrorists.

Wilders visits UK after court overturns ban

Controversial politician and leader of the right-wing Freedom Party (PVV) Geert Wilders traveled to the United Kingdom on Friday. The visit comes after the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in London ruled earlier this week that Wilders should not have been refused entry to the country in February 2009.

Wilders was invited in February to show his anti-Islam film Fitna at the House of Lords, the UK upper house of parliament. The invitation had come from UK Independence party peer, Lord Pearson. The British Home Office refused Mr Wilders entry to the country, giving the reason that his visit would “threaten community security and therefore public security”. A British organisation that promotes freedom of expression, the Birkenhead Society, had brought the case on his behalf, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports.

BBC reports that Wilders told a packed press conference in Westminster he was “proud of the UK asylum and immigration tribunal” for overturning the ban, and repeated his criticism of Muslim ideology, defending his call for the Quran to be banned in Holland. About 40 Muslim protesters gathered outside the Abbey Gardens buildings, opposite the Houses of Parliament, where the press conference was held.

Banned extremists will be named and shamed

Extremists banned from entering the UK will be “named and shamed” under plans to be announced by the Government this week.

In the last three years, 230 people have been barred from entering the country because of their extreme views but they are not currently named publicly. However, the Home Office is expected to issue quarterly figures on exclusions and name some of those who are banned. A Home Office official said: “These measures are aimed at preventing anyone who will stir up tensions in the UK from entering the country. We have not named them in the past but now, when it was in the public interest, we will. They will also be placed on international watch lists which tell other countries that they have been banned and why they were not allowed in. Coming to the UK is a privilege. We don’t want people abusing that by stirring up tensions.”

The bans on high profile figures, including radical Isalmist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrkhan, only became known after the individuals themselves spoke out against the decisions. Omar Bakri Mohammed was banned from the UK in the wake of the 7/7 terror attacks in London in 2005.

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Marriage visa age raised to prevent forced marriages

The age at which someone can apply for a marriage visa will increase from 18 to 21 as part of a crackdown on forced marriage, the Home Office announced on Wednesday. In 2007 the Forced Marriage Unit dealt with 215 cases of overseas forced marriage where the age of the victim was known, 69 of which involved people aged between 18 and 20. The proposals were set out in “Marriage Visas: The Way Forward”. The five key proposals announced were to raise the age of sponsorship for a marriage visa from 18 to 21; ask foreign spouses to enter into an agreement to learn English before they come to the UK; introduce a power to revoke leave to remain where there is evidence that the marriage route has been abused; require all sponsors to register their intention to marry overseas before they leave the UK; and ensure through a code of practice that specialist teams can identify vulnerable people at risk of forced marriage. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: “Forced marriage leads to victims suffering years of physical and mental abuse and – in extreme cases – unlawful imprisonment and rape. It has no place in our society. That is why the Government is determined to do everything it can to stamp it out and to ensure that victims receive the help and support they need.

Imams could lead citizenship lessons

Schools are to be enlisted in the fight against home-grown terrorism with plans for Imams to be sent into schools to steer children away from radicalisation, the government will announce next week. The schools secretary, Ed Balls, unveiled guidance on Tuesday, developed with the Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government, advising schools, police and local authorities on how they can work together to combat terrorism. It forms a central part of the government’s “prevent strategy” to tackle violent extremism. The guidance includes British-born Imams leading citizenship lessons to give a counter view to the “al-qaida version” of Islam – clerics would be vetted to ensure they do not hold radical views. It also mentions theatre groups that could bring positive role models into youth groups to inspire young people and “make sure they feel part of society”.

New plan to tackle violent extremism: Mentors to be drafted in to help reverse the process of radicalisation

A nationwide “deradicalisation” programme is being developed to tackle people who have been drawn into Islamist violent extremism in Britain, the government will reveal today. The Home Office said the strategy was needed to help bring back those who had “already crossed the line” in terms of ideology and outlook, but not yet committed any clear criminal offence. The local schemes involved so far aim to reverse the process of radicalisation possibly through mentoring those involved: “Nationally we are developing a UK deradicalisation programme,” says the government’s new strategy document on preventing violent extremism published today. “That involves learning from overseas, from other professions, and through pilot programmes. We recognise that more specialised techniques are likely to be necessary but a key element of this approach is for local partners to identify and work with organisations that may be able to provide this capacity.” It cites the example of a community based programme in Leicester that is already mentoring “vulnerable individuals” using techniques including encouraging them to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which have led to them becoming alienated and disempowered. Alan Travis reports.

National forced marriage helpline launched

A new national helpline for victims of forced marriage and honour-based violence, part-funded by the Forced Marriage Unit, was launched this week by Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker. The _Honour Network’, run by the charity Karma Nirvana is a dedicated forced marriage and honour-based violence helpline, staffed by survivors offering emotional and practical support. Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said: “This helpline run by survivors, for survivors, is a big step in the fight to raise awareness of the issues of forced marriage and honour-based violence and is crucial in giving victims across the country the confidence to come forward. “We recognise that the scale of these issues remains unknown and much of the problem stays underground. We are determined across Government to continue engaging with local communities and taking action to protect victims to put an end to this appalling practice.” Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana said the network was designed for “victims, survivors or potential victims of honour based crimes to reassure them they are victims not perpetrators”.

UK to extradite radical cleric to US

Britain intends to extradite jailed Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri to the United States to face terrorism charges, the Home Office said. The interior ministry made the announcement on Thursday after Home Secretary Jacqui Smith signed an extradition order. Hamza’s lawyer, Muddassar Arani, said an appeal would be filed because “there are some very serious issues that need to be considered”. If Hamza’s initial appeal is unsuccessful, he could file further appeals with the House of Lords, Britain’s highest court of law and, were it denied there, finally to the European Court of Justice or European Court of Human Rights, depending on the section of law he decided to contest. A Home Office spokeswoman said the process could take several months. Washington claims Hamza, 49, was part of a global plot to wage holy war or jihad against Western countries – he applauded the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 – and US authorities want him to stand trial over the 1998 abduction of 16 Western tourists in Yemen. Four of the hostages, three Britons and an Australian, were killed when Yemeni troops stormed the militants’ hide-out.

Civil servants to use new lexicons to avoid linking Islam with terrorism

The British government has produced a lexicon of phrases and terms that should be used by civil servants when dealing with Muslims to avoid any implication that there is a link between Islam and terrorism. “To engage effectively with local communities, we need consistent, clear and appropriate communications,” said a Home Office spokeswoman on Monday. She said ambiguous messages will not reach or be understood by the target communities. “We risk having a negative impact on our audiences.” Compiled by a Home Office unit set up last year to win the hearts and minds of Muslims, the phrasebook advises civil servants to use terms such as “violent extremism” instead of “terrorism.” 
It replaces “Islamophobia” with “discrimination” and describe those carrying out attacks in the name of Islam, criminals, murderers or thugs rather than “fundamentalist-jihadi” or “terrorists” (link temporary; some news sites may require registration)

Anti-Terror Bill is ‘Anti-Muslim’

An assessment published along with the Government’s revised Counter Terrorism Bill charged it as “anti-Muslim” yesterday as Prime Minister Gordon Brown pushes to controversially extend the detention period to 42-days without trial. Despite a torrent of criticism from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups including the possibility of a humiliating first Commons defeat for Brown, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith resorted to scaremongering in an attempt to bolster support by warning of “mass casualties” from a future terror attack. But the Home Office’s official assessment admitted that there existed “strong concerns” that the legislation is “anti-Muslim”. Although the Home Office was told to do more to win the “hearts and minds”, the consultation conceded that the bill risked alienating Muslims. “Muslim community representatives expressed a concern that this may lead to increased reluctance among their communities to provide vital co-operation and assistance to the police and security services,” the equality impact assessment on the Bill said. Hamza Bajwa reports.