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
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C#.NET Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, WPF, WCF, ASP.NET, Prism...

Creche Assistant or Nursery Nurse

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Creche Assistant to start asap ...

Nursery Nurse Level 3

£8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: The Job Nursery Nurse Leeds We are now ...

Web Developer/UI Developer (HTML5, CSS3,Jquery) London

£55000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ashya King's father explained why he took his son to Spain in a video uploaded to YouTube  

Ashya King: Breakdown in relations leads to this PR fiasco

Paul Peachey
Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development holds a carton of eggs during a speech to Better Together supporters  

When the course of history is on the line, democracy is a raw, vicious and filthy business

Matthew Norman
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering