Britain is proud of its global and deserved reputation as a tolerant, multi-cultural society where people of all nationalities, backgrounds and faiths live in peace and friendship.
The unified and calm response of the British people to the terrorist attacks in London last month – in which the victims were of all faiths and none – underlined the tolerance and strength of our society. While there have been isolated and completely unacceptable acts of religious and racial hatred, the overwhelming response of our population was that these attacks were the work of a few fanatics, not of any section of our society. If a goal of these attacks was to turn our citizens against each other, they failed.
But there is also an almost universal agreement – among the two-million strong British Muslim community as much as any other group – that we can’t continue to allow extremists to abuse our freedoms and the tolerance of our society to support, encourage, condone or glorify terrorism. Indeed it is the Muslim community who understand more than most what a menace these fringe fanatics are to good relations and to cohesiveness of our country.
So we are bringing forward a package of measures aimed at closing the loopholes in our law which these extremists have been exploiting. But these are not crude measures. Part of our long-held and valued traditions of freedom and tolerance is a commitment by any government to consult widely across the breadth of society before bringing forward any new legislation.
I am determined to maintain these proud traditions – and the reputation which goes with them. None of the new measures will threaten these. But equally, the rules of the game have changed, and we need to respond. Young men, born in Britain, have been brainwashed by extremists to the point where they blow themselves up and murder innocent people.
The new measures I am proposing are directed against extremism and extremism only – whatever form it takes, and whichever faith it claims to represent. In some cases, I suspect there will be surprise abroad that they are not already in place. So we will seek new powers to deport or exclude foreign nationals who foster hatred, advocate violence or justify such violence. This will include clerics associated with extremism.
There has, for some time, been a call for action from within the Muslim community against such clerics. With the help of the community, we will now draw up a list of foreign-born clerics who will not be allowed to preach in the UK and who can be excluded. For British citizens, we will bring in a new offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism in the UK and abroad.
These measures are not aimed at decent law-abiding British Muslims – or Britons of any other faith. We know that this fringe of extremism does not truly represent Islam. British Muslims have made abundantly clear how they abhor the actions of the extremists and how they fear that the good name of the community will be contaminated by the words and actions of these fanatics.
Many, after all, made their homes in the UK exactly because they enjoy in the UK, like all other faiths, the complete freedom to worship and to make a better life for their families. Their children have been born here. British Muslims make a huge and welcome contribution to our national life.
We will continue to welcome as well those, of all backgrounds, who visit our country from abroad in peace and who understand that the respect and tolerance towards others in which we believe is the surest guarantee of freedom and progress for people of all religious faiths.
But coming to Britain is not a right, and even when people have come here, staying here carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values of freedom and tolerance that sustain our shared way of life. Those that break that duty and try to incite hatred or engage in violence against our country and its people have no place here. On this principle, people of all faiths in Britain are agreed. And it is my job to act on it.