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The Old 'New Normal' for London

by Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law

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The attacks on London on 7 July 2005 and 21 July 2005 have steeled Londoners and the UK -- but with concern for the future -- against this latest enemy against our civilisation. In fighting the threats, we must not lose who we are and what we are fighting for -- namely, our nation, our democracy and our values.

As you are all aware, London has been under attack by Moslem fundamentalists over the past month. The tube suffered a fierce attack on 7 June, and a failed attack a fortnight later on the 21 June. 

Moslem fundamentalist leaders have further threatened the UK and London with more attacks due to its involvement in Iraq. 

Yet London carries on. Yes, Londoners are wary and frankly operate in a different manner. However, there is the determination to carry on with our lives. 

There is a distinct difference between the American reaction to 9-11 and the UK reaction to 7-7. The US reaction was that the world had changed to a ‘new normal’. The UK, on the other hand, has carried on with its business and daily routine. Why the difference? 

First, the UK – and London – is not new to attacks. The IRA bombings spanned decades. Yet Londoners persevered with their lives, and outlasted the IRA. 

Londoners also take pride in their response to the Blitz – and the fact that they were the first to defeat Hitler. That pride has steeled the city and the nation to this very day, and to this latest threat. 

In many ways then, while New York dealt with a ‘new normal’, London has returned to its pride, the old 'new normal’ of steeling itself against threats. 

With the political and terrorist threats – as in any war – there arise legal issues. A nation at war can still be a democracy – yet at the same time not let its democratic values be used against it. 

For example, prior to the first attack, there had been a debate within the UK about Identity Cards for all UK residents. Parliament, in fact, passed the Act authorising Identity Cards a little more than a week before the 7 July bombing. 

The debate around Identity Cards came down to two issues. First, are they a violation of individual privacy; and second, would they be effective in promoting national security? 

The first question, regarding individual privacy, is of deep concern. Information can be misused and abused even by the appropriate users -- never mind the information falling into the wrong hands. Yet authorities have information available at all times on people – from National Statistics, to the Inland Revenue taxation authorities, to the NHS health authorities. Abuses occur, and need to be dealt with. 

The second question, regarding whether the cards would be effective in promoting national security, is also of deep concern. The assumption inherent in the cards is that the cards would identify good British citizens. Yet people who largely seemed to be good British citizens carried out the 7 July bombings. In fact, their families thought they were missing in the bombings, and called police concerned about their relatives. Moreover, they were shocked and anguished when they found out their relatives were not victims, but indeed the perpetrators. 

Worse, Islamic religious leaders in Britain – many of them holding UK citizenship and future holders of Identity Cards – actually backed the actions of the bombers, and had no problem predicting – even wanting – future attacks on the very country of their residency and citizenship. It was very instructive watching documentaries on TV where these religious leaders had no problem if their young British followers were to train in Moslem military camps to kill British soldiers. 

Hence, the Identity Card has a basic flaw – and that flaw being that the very holders of the card can be the enemy. 

Can, then, the identity card provide security for the UK? 

However – and this is the key point – how can a card provide security when the existing laws for protecting our nation are not even enforced? 

That is, in fact, the real problem. The UK government, for its own reasons, has been very lax in dealing with the growing Islamic fundamentalist threat within Britain

Videos are distributed on the Internet where young British Moslems celebrate the attack, in rap music, on the World Trade Centre -- and advocate Jihad on the Western world. 

These young British Moslems have been educated in the best schools this nation can offer, and support their favourite sport teams across the country – and yet engage in plans to war on Western civilisation. 

They stand in Trafalgar Square, chanting slogans calling for the overthrow and elimination of our leaders and that of our ally, the United States. 

Yet the police do nothing, and no politician acts with outrage. 

So now, we face bombings and the threat of future bombings. The threat is not coming from outside the nation, but from within, from our own British citizens. 

Now, please understand that I am not against Islam or any other religion.  However, I do not advocate extremist, intolerant views in any religious belief. If you are in a Western democracy, your loyalty to that democracy comes first, and your adherence to a moderate, tolerant form of your religion comes second. It has to be this way; otherwise, we would degenerate into religious wars. Humankind has seen too much of religious wars. 

Hence, the millions – or billions – of pounds spent on Identity Cards would be better spent on dealing with this internal threat from British citizens. 

There is another issue, and that is regarding asylum seekers and deportation. Now, as a caring nation the UK should be willing to help those in trouble who seek asylum. Yet there has to be a balance between naïve help and wariness of those utilising the asylum system for their own nefarious purposes for entering the UK. Worse, even when detected and facing deportation orders, these orders are rarely enforced since their originating nations will not accept these people; or these people are simply too violent to transport to their former country. 

Where does the issue of asylum seekers fit in with the security issue? The concern is not because many or most of these people are Moslem. Many asylum seekers are truly people seeking help, and should be considered fairly by the UK. The problem is that many of these Islamic religious leaders and their followers have entered the country under asylum, and then have gained UK citizenship – and more importantly, passports. These UK passports have allowed these religious leaders and extremist followers to travel freely internationally. One of the bombers, for example, was the son of refugees granted asylum years earlier. 

Many will say that we should not become as the enemy. To fight the Nazis, we did not have to become Nazis. Equally, to fight religious extremists and dictators we do not have to become the same thing. We do not have to engage in religious or racial attacks in retribution for their religious attacks. We do not have to become dictators taking away the rights of the citizenry in the manner of the Islamic fundamentalist countries.

Instead, existing laws must be enforced against those planning or engaging in terrorist or extremist activities. That is not saying there should not be new laws, for example against advocating or supporting terrorist activities. However, there are existing laws such as the Terrorism Act that are woefully under-enforced. 

The Prime Minister, Mr. Tony Blair, has announced measures to deal with these issues. However, these measures -- which may involve changes to Human Rights legislation -- may be challenged by liberal judges. Further, any changes to Human Rights legislation may require UK withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights.

What we need to do is to fight back with our British values and sense of decency – but with determination to win the fight and restore our security. 

We must win the fight for all decent UK citizens, whatever their race or religion. 

We defeat the religious extremists when we show our determination not to let our normal routines be destroyed. 

We defeat the religious extremists when we do not hesitate to defend ourselves, and take the battle to them. 

We learned these lessons in the Blitz fighting the Nazis. 

We can use these valuable truths again in this latter-day battle for our civilisation.

Brian Risman, Publisher and Founder, The Law Journal UK and Consultant in International Law 

Your thoughts? 

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Comments on this Article from our readers:

From Ashley Norman, London, Central:

Mr Risman,

After reading your recent article on Terrorism in London, I have to agree on your general points of preventing terrorism and persevering with our quotidian chores, not allowing ourselves to be brought down with fear. However, your argument is that New Yorkers changed their whole attitude after 9/11, and Londoners have carried on, conscious yet restrained in our attitudes. But ask yourself this, are two planes crashing into the World Trade Centre, a building of financial workings and a symbol of America’s power and supremacy, similar to that of bombs going off on the London underground? The disaster is not even on the same scale. It would be probably be the equivalent of a plane crashing into Big Ben, one of London’s proudest centre points. So how can we compare? The Spanish did not act dissimilar to that of the British when they were bombed.

I am English, live in London and enjoy the typical quintessential London attributes. I believe in democracy and support the ideals that democracy offers. But what does democracy mean? Demos meaning power and kratos meaning people. Power to the people. Each person should have their right to believe what they want, even if it goes against the whole nature of government. Britain, and the rest of Europe for that matter, is proud of the fact that we are a democratic. So how can a democratic county prevent freedom of speech? It is unsurprising that politicians are not outraged at the fact that Muslim fundamentalists chant in the streets, create websites supporting the overthrow of western civilization and celebrate in the open when an attack occurs. But how can we prevent that? It is impossible to create a rule saying that nobody is to have radical views of how the country is to be run, or object to the system of Government. After all, is that not what Mussolini did? Now do not get me wrong, I think what was done to our country was despicable and an outrageous crime against humanity. I do not like it, support it, want it, nor welcome it when people talk of demolishing our country and crushing our way of life but we have to put up with it. It is a simple fact of life that people can never have the same views on how a country should be run. Talk does not hurt anyone. But the actions are not condoned and those responsible should be punished.

Are we not hypocritical however for saying that people with radical views are a threat to our country? The western world have very different views to the East. And when Mr Blair and Mr Bush were not in accordance to the regime of Iraq, they found excuses to go to war and to implement a new system. The very way in which Mr Blair went to war is thought illegal. But when the West does it, that’s thought justifiable. How can a nation such as Great Britain be so naïve? What the East is doing is defence as they are threatened by our super powers and is far from dissimilar to that of our own actions. The fact of the matter is, not so much Britain but definitely America, the present day super powers cannot handle having a have not grow and become more powerful. Perhaps this is why America’s reaction to 9/11 was more intense than that of London or Madrid. London is doing what America did in the Cold War, and the majority of historians can see that London, the West, just wants to contain Muslim Fundamentalism.

Your article referred to ID cards, which could definitely help national security, but in implementing these cards they will be issued to British citizens who uphold the Jihad ideology or are Muslim Fundamentalists. But the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot. I feel Identity Cards will, no matter what, be issued in the not so distant future, especially in a day and age which is become more corrupt than ever due to this surge in technology.

I hope you can understand my views.

Your thoughts?   

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