Sunday, 11 January 2015

Hard to comprehend the Paris massacres but the international jihadi movement has declared war on all free countries

The Canadian PM Stephen Harper put the situation well: 
“The international jihadist movement has declared war. They have declared war on anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they’d think and act. We may not like this and wish it would go away, but it’s not going to go away, and the reality is we are going to have to confront it.” 

Many commentators have made rightly the point that it is only by maintaining free speech, democracy, the rule of law and the right to our hard won freedoms will we actually maintain those freedoms. At this time we should also cherish our multi culturalism. But that multi culturalism is not a new thing: our country is always evolving. 

The United kingdom that we are is an amalgam or so many races, religions, and, more importantly, countries manifested into one it is truly international. To declare yourself to be Anglo Saxon is to tip your hat to the conquering Danes of the 700-970 years, the Saxons of old and with a nod to the Hanoverians of more recent times. Not forgetting our conquerors at Hastings, the French Normans, or the countries we have merged into the United Kingdom from the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh and their forebears the Celts. I write as a relatively recent ancestor of immigrants. Self evidently Opperman is not a Traditional British name. My mother's mother was a welsh Llewellyn, with centuries of Welsh lineage. Likewise my father's mother came from western rural Ireland, where her dad worked on the railways in County Galway. As a result, I am compete Heinz 57 of races, creeds, locations, and different religions in previous generations. But this is, in my opinion, not remarkable. This is the modern era, and that is the United Kingdom as we now know it. I welcome people who want to come and make a life here, to work, and contribute. I know, from having spoken to young Muslims locally in Newcastle, that some Muslims feel alone in the present climate. They need our support even more at this time. The crazed terrorists we saw in Paris are not Muslims. They are simply terrorists. The world has had terrorists before and it will again. And we defeat them by sticking together, by not over reacting save for grief, and by bringing in rational and sensible measures to address the problems.

So I do not ask my Muslim friends to condemn the acts of these terrorists in France because I know, and we should all know, that these terrorists are not Muslims. Similarly when Anders Breivik, a white Norwegian massacred many a few years ago people there did not ask people to condemn these acts. We all are horrified. Norway’s response to the Anders Breivik massacre in 2011 was not retribution, revenge, clampdowns against a particular group, and the country re asserted itself as a peaceable tolerant nation. 

But there are things that can be done, which are local and pragmatic, over and above mass marches and the local faith groups working together; whether it is the Prevent strategy that exists already in the UK, or the enhanced powers granted by the House of Commons in the Counter Terrrorism Act last week these are specifics in action over and above people power. The Counter Terrorism Bills key matters that the Commons agreed after many weeks of debate on Wednesday is as follows: it will
  • disrupt the ability of people to travel abroad to fight and control their return to the UK
  • enhance the ability of the law enforcement and intelligence agencies to monitor and control the actions of those in the UK who pose a threat
  • combat the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism
The bill will:
  • create a new power for police to seize passports temporarily from individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism
  • create an order to disrupt and control the return of British citizens who we suspect of travelling abroad to engage in terrorist-related activity
  • amend the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Act 2011 to give effect to the recommendation in the most recent report of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation on the operation of TPIMs
  • amend the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 to allow for a power to require communications service providers to retain the data necessary to attribute an Internet Protocol (IP) address to an individual
  • enhance the UK’s border security in relation to aviation, maritime and rail transport, by legislating on passenger information, authority to carry (‘no fly’) lists, and security and screening measures
  • place a duty on a range of bodies to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism
  • put the voluntary programme for people at risk of radicalisation (known as ‘Channel’ in England and Wales) on a statutory footing, in order to ensure consistency of delivery