Leading article: Offensive, but not illegal

Share

The tone of the political debate about how Britain is to deal with the threat of terrorism from within its own borders is growing increasing hysterical. And each measure being mooted by the Government seems more inappropriate than the last. The latest proposal from the Home Office minister Hazel Blears is to "rebrand" Britain's ethnic minorities so as to encourage the process of integration. Ms Blears is inspired by the practice of some US citizens of adopting a "hyphenated" identity, such as "Italian-American" or "Irish-American". She foresees benefits to community cohesion if ethnic minority Britons were to call themselves, for example, "British-Asian" rather than "Muslim" or "Asian".

On a superficial reading her proposal may seem attractive to some. There is no reason why Britons should not simultaneously demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage and the British nationality. But closer inspection of the minister's words reveals their emptiness. Americans adopt a "hyphenated identity" because they want to, not because the US Government decrees they should. If British citizens wish to do the same, that is a matter for them, not Ms Blears or the Government.

Another bizarre proposal that has emerged in recent days is that extremist Muslims in the UK who make offensive statements regarding terrorism should be prosecuted for treason. We are told the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions are to meet with senior police to decide whether such charges of treason can be brought against those who have voiced support for terrorism in the wake of the London bombings. This will please the right-wing press who have long called for figures such as Omar Bakri Mohammed to be prosecuted on such a dramatic-sounding charge. But, as with "rebranding", this idea has little substance. For one thing, it would be almost impossible to prove in the courts.

The most depressing aspect of the Government's response to the London bombings has been its apparent desire to stretch the law to prosecute a handful of Islamist extremists. As well as plans to revivify the treason laws, there are plans in train to create new offences of "condoning" or "glorifying" terrorism. Yet what these amount to is little more than a clampdown on free speech.

Of course, what the likes of Abu Izzadeen and Abu Uzair have said in recent weeks is monstrously offensive. But a liberal society should not create new laws to criminalise those who only offend us. If there is evidence of wrong-doing, prosecute such people under existing leglislation. Otherwise, this is merely a distraction from the task of tracking down those actively plotting to commit acts of terrorism.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Design Consultant - Kitchens & Interiors

£12000 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Solar PV Surveyor

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Corporate Security Officer

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This provider of commercial security solution...

Recruitment Genius: Design Consultant - Kitchen and Interiors - OTE £45,000

£17000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I predicted MH370 would end up at Reunion Island. Its discovery could debunk conspiracy theories

Charitha Pattiaratchi
A protestor from the 'Robin Hood Tax Campaign,'  

The Robin Hood Tax is a more sensible and fairer way of helping our economy to recover

Jeremy Corbyn
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works