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The real threat to freedom in Britain

August 19, 2005 | Page 3

BRITISH PRIME Minister Tony Blair has declared war on Arabs and Muslims in Britain. Using the excuse of the July 7 bombings in London, Blair recently announced what he calls a "comprehensive framework for action in dealing with the terrorist threat in Britain."

Like the Bush administration's USA PATRIOT Act, the measures are a blueprint for trampling on civil liberties and scapegoating Arabs and Muslims--all to whip up British support for the U.S.-led "war on terror."

Blair's new measures include increased government powers to deport and strip immigrants of citizenship, possible secret courts for terror suspects, making a criminal offense of "condoning or glorifying terrorism," new government powers to close places of worship used for "fomenting extremism"--and drawing up a list of radical religious leaders who will be excluded from Britain.

Just days after making the announcement, the Blair government detained 10 men, vowing to depart them as threats to "national security." Among the 10 was Palestinian cleric Sheik Omar Mahmoud Abu Omar, known as Abu Qatada, saying they were a threat to "national security." Abu Qatada had only been released last March after three years of detention in a high-security British prison--without charges--under anti-terror powers introduced following September 11.

Blair claimed that his clampdown wasn't "aimed at the decent, law-abiding Muslim community of Britain." But in the same breath, he added fuel to the fire, saying that living in Britain "carries with it a duty. That duty is to share and support the values that sustain the British way of life."

In other words, those whose politics differ from what the government decrees is "acceptable"--and who dare to speak out about it--may find they have no rights.

For a sense of what Britain's new police measures will mean in practice, look no further than here in the U.S.--where the vicious racism and attacks on civil liberties unleashed by the Bush administration after September 11 have led to untold numbers of Muslims and Arabs being detained, imprisoned or "disappeared," most for nothing more than minor immigration violations.

Consider the nightmare that Palestinian rights supporter Dr. Sami Al-Arian has faced. Al-Arian is on trial for allegedly materially aiding "terrorism"--and the Feds have pulled out all the stops to convict him, including trying last week to introduce a letter that Al-Arian supposedly wrote to Kuwaiti legislator Isma'il al-Shatti, praising a 1995 suicide bombing in Israel and asking to raise money. But prosecutors were forced to admit that Al-Shatti says never received the letter, and that it may have never been sent.

Today, Tony Blair, as the junior partner in Bush's "war on terror," is exploiting the tragedy of the London bombings in the same way that the Bush administration exploited September 11.

As British antiwar leader and Member of Parliament George Galloway said, "Terrorists can plant bombs, but only the government can take away our fundamental freedoms. And that is exactly what Tony Blair is proposing to do. His new laws, to be debated in parliament next month, will not stop terror. But they will add to the sense of injustice that terrorism feeds on."

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