They are the world’s most dangerous men: Samir Al-Quntar
, the Lebanese terrorist who killed four Israelis, among them a four-year-old girl whose head he bashed in with the butt of his rifle; Nasr Javed, the Pakistan-based commander of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, a prime suspect
in the November attacks in Mumbai, India, in which 173 were killed and hundreds wounded; Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, the leaders of a Russian skinhead gang that murdered at least 20 people
; and then there is Michael Alan Weiner, a.k.a. Michael Savage, the right-wing radio shock jock who occasionally makes crude comments.
If the last of these names seems strangely incongruous on a list of dangerous and violent extremists, that is because the list itself is the work of Jacqui Smith, Britain’s habitually censorial Home Secretary, whose office yesterday released this roster of 22 “hate promoters
” who will henceforth be banned from the UK. This list of the so-called “named and shamed” included not only the aforementioned terrorists and racist gang leaders but also the incendiary but decidedly non-violent Michael Savage
, raising the question of what exactly the British authorities have achieved.
As a political gesture, the British blacklist is in equal parts ridiculous and dangerous. Whatever one’s views of Savage’s on-air antics – and he has long since apologized
to the gay community for his most outrageous remark, to a caller, that he should “get AIDS and die” – by no means does he deserve to be grouped with child killers, mass-murdering terrorists, and racists. No less absurd is the premise that the genuine extremists on the list will somehow be “shamed” by their mention. More likely, previously obscure terror leaders like Nasr Javed will savor their moment of international infamy and the attendant boost to their reputation.
The more worrying aspect of the official blacklist is the explicit message that British authorities will no longer tolerate opinions with which they disagree. How else to explain the inclusion of Savage, who fits none of the definitions of violent extremism that the Home Office cites as grounds for a ban, namely support for or incitement of terrorism and criminal activity? It is true that Savage has sometimes said inflammatory things, a point he readily concedes
, but the fact that he is now banned from Britain invites the uncomfortable suspicion that anyone with an opinion uncongenial to the Home Office is no longer welcome in the country.
It’s certainly not the first time that the British Home Office has given this impression. This February, Jacqui Smith triggered an international row between Britain and the Netherlands when she refused entry
to Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, deeming his anti-Islamic film Fitna
so hateful that she personally issued the order to turn Wilders away – a decision in which she was enthusiastically supported by both Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband. That decision was arguably even more scandalous, since polls have shown
that more than half of the British public shares Wilders’ view that Islam, as separate from Islamic terrorists, poses a threat to the West. Fortunately for the poll respondents, they were already U.K. citizens, or else they too might have been banned from the country.
The British public’s concerns point up the greatest defect of the new blacklist: It ignores the urgent sources of violent hatred and extremism that threaten the U.K. from within to focus on threats of vastly varying gravity from without. As will be old news to all save the British Home Office, these threats emanate primarily from the U.K.’s large, ill-assimilated, and increasingly militant Muslim community.
The statistics on this point are overwhelming. For instance, a February 2006 Telegraph poll
found that 20 percent of British Muslims sympathized with the suicide bombers who killed 52 people in the July 7, 2005, London bombings, while 40 percent of Muslims favored the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in Britain. An April 2006 survey
of Muslim attitudes by the London-based research group GfK Nop found that 78 percent of British Muslims wanted to the “punish” the Danish editors who published the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, while 68 percent supported the arrest and prosecution of British people “who insult Islam.” Similar polls have consistently shown
that significant percentages of British Muslims approve of suicide bombings on British targets, admire terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda, and deny the Holocaust. Those seeking violent threats to domestic security need not look beyond the U.K.’s borders.
The threat of Islamic radicalization is itself consequence of another crisis that British authorities have failed to address: the tide of large and uncontrolled immigration from the Muslim world. The journalist Bruce Bawer reports
that Britain’s Muslim population spiked from about 82,000 in 1961 to 553,000 in 1981 to 2 million in 2000. Bawer further notes that, according to the Times
of London, “the number of Muslims in the U.K. climbed by half a million between 2004 and 2008 alone – a rate of growth ten times that of the rest of that country’s population.” Meanwhile, Jacqui Smith boasts that her office is now banning as many as five – five! – people a month from entering the county. Even assuming they are more dangerous than Michael Savage, it is still doubtful that those numbers will be reassuring to anyone worried about British security.
Although the new blacklist is intended to inspire confidence in the Home Office’s ability to counter the threat of extremist violence, it actually suggests the opposite conclusion. Not only does this list skirt the pressing threat of domestic Islamic extremism, but to the extent that it punishes the holders of certain opinions, it actually encourages Islamists who see free speech as one of the many expendable features of the democratic society they oppose. Still, give the strategically misdirected authorities credit. They may have done little to make Britons safer, but at least they’ve prevented Michael Savage from taking his next vacation in London.