Nail bomb attacks: Blair: Bigots are outcasts in our society

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR yesterday described violent racists as the "true minorities" in British society, pledging that the Government would not tolerate attacks on minorities.

In a speech in Birmingham to the mark the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Sikh religion, the Prime Minister said that bringing the killers to justice would help defend "what it means to be British".

"When one section of our community is under attack, we defend them in the name of all the community. When bombs attack the black and Asian community in Britain, they attack the whole of Britain," he said.

"When the gay community is attacked and innocent people are murdered, all the good people of Britain, whatever their race, their lifestyle, their class, unite in revulsion and determination to bring the evil people to justice."

Mr Blair said that the Britons took pride in their ethnic diversity and could be proud of a patriotism that united rather than divided the nation.

"The true outcasts today, the true minorities, those truly excluded are not the different races and religions of Britain but the racists, the bombers, the violent criminals who hate that vision of Britain and try to destroy it," he said.

"But they shall not win. the great decent majority of British people will not let them. We will defeat them and then we can build the tolerant, multi-racial Britain the vast majority of use want to see."

The Prime Minister said that he had a vision for the 21st century which was based respect for diversity, a society "free from prejudice but not free from rules."

Mr Blair, who received a rapturous reception from the audience at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, said in the past that patriotism and national identity were defined by reference to those excluded. "Nationalism in this sense can be dangerous: you have to come from one colour, one religion, one ethnic background as opposed to others.

"Today we take pride in an identity limited by the geography of the country but within that country open to all, whatever their colour, religion or ethnic background." He also thanked the Metropolitan Police for the "vigour and resolution" with which they had responded to the bombings. Mr Blair compared the fight against intolerance in Britain to Nato's campaign to defeat "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo.

"The values we are fighting for are the same values: the right to live in freedom from fear, whatever your race or religion," he said. "When defenceless people are butchered by Milosevic in Kosovo, young men murdered, women violated, it is an outrage against the very values of humanity which are the world's only salvation. We must act to stop it."

While Nato had no desire to harm innocent people such as those killed in error when a bus was hit on Saturday, Mr Blair said, the Yugoslavs were doing far worse, deliberately slaughtering thousands of ethnic Albanians.

Downing Street said the Government saw no need to extend the scope of anti-terrorism legislation to cover extreme right-wing groups. Mr Blair's press spokesman said the police have all the powers they needed to hunt down the bombers. "There are obvious attractions to proscribing but there are also disadvantages. There are certainly no plans to proscribe them in the way that has been suggested."