- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2005

LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed strict anti-terror measures yesterday that would allow Britain to expel foreigners who preach hatred, to close extremist mosques and to bar entry to Muslim radicals.

“The rules of the game are changing” as a result of last month’s bomb attacks, Mr. Blair said.

The proposals, which also target extremist Web sites and bookshops, are aimed primarily at excluding radical Islamic clerics accused of whipping up hatred and violence among vulnerable, disenfranchised Muslim men.

“We are angry. We are angry about extremism and about what they are doing to our country, angry about their abuse of our good nature,” Mr. Blair said. “We welcome people here who share our values and our way of life. But don’t meddle in extremism because if you meddle in it … you are going back out again.”

The July 7 suicide attacks on London’s transit system and the failed July 21 attacks stunned Britons and raised new concerns about the freedoms Britain offers to individuals and groups known for extremist activities.

Mr. Blair said the focus of the anti-terror proposals was on foreigners because authorities think “the ideological drive and push is coming from the outside.”

Some members of Britain’s Muslim community, estimated at 1.6 million to 1.8 million, expressed concern that moderate Muslims would be subjected to new prejudices and restrictions.

But one prominent Muslim welcomed the move and said it was long overdue.

“Day after day these lunatics on our behalf … are really messing up our lives here,” Omar Farooq of the Islamic Society of Britain told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Britain has been criticized for trailing its European neighbors in responding to the growing threat of terrorism.

Since last month’s attacks, France has expelled two extremist Muslim prayer leaders and plans to ship home eight others. Italian authorities deported eight Palestinian imams.

Some British officials feel human rights restrictions have hampered Britain’s ability to deport foreigners. As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain is not allowed to deport people to a country where they may face torture or death.

Mr. Blair is hoping that by winning pledges from countries where deportees would not be subjected to inhumane treatment, Britain can take a tougher line. An agreement has already been reached with Jordan, and London is talking to Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.

Under the proposals, anyone who preaches hatred or violence could be deported, those linked to terrorism would be automatically refused asylum and steps would be taken to make it easier to strip naturalized citizens of their British citizenship if they preach violence.

The government also will consider a request from police and security services to hold terror suspects for three months without charge. The limit now is 14 days.

New powers would be created to allow the closure of mosques that foment extremism.

It isn’t immediately clear how the measures would have affected those suspected of carrying out last month’s attacks.

Three of the four July 7 bombers, who killed at least 56 persons including themselves, were Pakistani Britons; the fourth moved from Jamaica as a child. At least three of the four men in custody for purportedly carrying out the botched attacks July 21 were immigrants from East Africa.

The proposals, however, could affect their ideological leaders, as well as people such as jailed Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who has encouraged the killings of Jews and other non-Muslims and is wanted in the United States, and Omar Mahmoud abu Omar, a Palestinian Islamic extremist better known as Abu Qatada.

Sheik Omar Bakri, who has frequently shrugged off accusations that he preaches extremism, criticized Mr. Blair’s proposals, particularly suggestions that he could be targeted for remarks made years ago.

“If they believed what I said was illegal, why didn’t they arrest me at the time. They know my work well,” he said. “However, I feel I’ve done a great service for Muslims. I’ve addressed the anger and frustration so many youth feel.”

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