In August 1990, as Saddam Hussein’s troops were occupying Kuwait , the French authorities hurriedly shut down a number of magazines and media organizations affiliated with the Iraqi regime and its supporters as they were no longer differentiating between expressing their views and propaganda. In Britain , however, in the name of freedom, the government allowed the Iraqi regime to hire men to speak on its behalf and publicly call for confronting the British government and killing its soldiers, at home and abroad. Many more incidents have occurred since then, notably the attacks of September 11 2001 , yet the government in London continued to stand idle.
Due to this inactivity, media and publicity brigades were set up and places of worship used to justify crimes perpetrated against innocent civilians and encourage armed struggle, not only in countries of the Middle East, but also inside Britain. Police officers did not intervene, nor did they question suspects, try them in court, or sentence them. Evil men were left alone to spread their disease in British society.
For more than 15 years, no one reacted to campaigns of hate and intellectual terrorism. Matters changed when more than 50 innocent men and women were murdered on July 7, 2005 when four bombs exploded in London . Only after blood was spilled did the government finally announce it intended to block all the doors and tighten the screws on individual freedoms to prevent terrorism in all its forms.
According to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the country has, at last, caught up with the rest of the world and said a big “No!” to terrorism; London is becoming more like Paris, Washington D.C, Riyadh, and other Arab capitals. The era of misplaced tolerance which allowed crimes to be committed with perpetrators being punished has come to an end. Had the British authorities acted earlier against extremists in the press, on the internet, in mosques, schools, and libraries, innocent lives would have been saved, in London and in other countries which look up to Britain as an inspiration and a leading nation.
The challenge now for the Blair government is to act swiftly and carry out its threats against peddlers of hate. It ought to hold to account all the Islamist websites that carry quotes, videos, and pictures of extremists. It must interrogate members of fundamentalist media organizations together with worshipers and students of religious centers dotted around London because of their leading role in spreading extremist ideologies and justifying criminal acts.
Unless the authorities are seen to be serious in their attempts to root out terror, things will not change. Unless every individual who calls for jihad (holy struggle) and justifies it is expelled from the country or punished, the latest government campaign will fail. Only when terrorists are deprived of British nationality and their supporters of money and ideas will the number of young men being recruited start to decline. The government needs to mimic the Arab country whose story I recounted yesterday when it decided to exile a fundamentalist imam to Um Qasr in Iraq so he can engage in combat in person instead of lying to his people and feeding their anger. Terrorism and provocation will not cease unless serious efforts are taken to drive them out.
This is the second article of a two-part series examing the anti- terror measures announced by British Prime Minsiter Tony Blair in the wake of the London bombings.