Britain boosts effort to keep out extremists

So-called "preachers of hate" will be required to prove their innocence before entering the country.

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The British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced new rules aimed at preventing extremists from entering Britain. Under the new rules, the burden of proof will lie with those accused of extremism and hate speech, rather than the government. Ms. Smith's announcement coincides with reports that Britain's efforts to establish a centralized database of phone calls and Internet traffic has led to the frequent misuse of the personal information of Britons.

On Tuesday, Smith announced tougher legal measures to prevent extremists from entering the UK, reports The Independent. New rules, which will not require new legislation, place the burden of proof on the accused.

The Home Secretary said extremists will have to prove their innocence under new rules which are aimed at tackling radical Islamists, neo-Nazis and violent animal rights activists.
Currently the burden of proof rests with the Government, which has banned 230 individuals since 2005....
Ms. Smith said: "Through these tough new measures I will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.
"Coming to the UK is a privilege and I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values to undermine our way of life."

Those accused of inciting hate may have to champion democracy as a condition for remaining in the UK, reports Dawn, a Pakistani daily.

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So-called 'foreign-born extremists' will be the main target of the new policy and rules will be introduced to make them retract controversial statements, and refute specific allegations made against them....
Those accused of advocating illegal action may also have to make a public statement of their support for democracy if they want to stay in Britain.

For the first time, the Home Office will also publish a list of alleged extremists prohibited from entering Britain, reports the Associated Press (AP). The British authorities describe the list as an attempt to 'name and shame' extremists. Prior to this, no way of knowing the names of those excluded from Britain has existed. Since 2005, 230 people have been barred from entering the Britain.

Britain will publicly list and ban entry of more than 200 people whose extremist views and "violent messages" are a threat to national security, the home secretary said Tuesday.
The plan announced by [Smith] would group together Muslim extremists, animal rights protesters, anti-abortion activists, neo-Nazis and others she said "encourage or spread extremism and hatred through preaching violent messages." The list would include only people from abroad.
Smith said publishing the names – roughly 230 – amounts to a toughening of existing exclusion orders that already list and ban certain groups from Britain. Authorities expect to publish the list on the Home Office Web site in the coming months.

The list includes Lebanon-based cleric Omar Bakri, US-based Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a Qatar-based cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and Moshe Feiglin, a member of Israel's Likud Party, reports the BBC.

Although the Home Office's new measures are aimed at foreign extremists, the Financial Times reports that British nationals may also be barred from entry.

The Home Office anticipates that the new rules, which could even prevent UK nationals from returning to Britain after stints abroad, including the European Union which requires free movement of all the bloc's citizens – will result in the barring of a larger number of people suspected of Islamic extremist links.

According to the BBC, critics of the new rules argue that they do not contain safeguards to prevent the exclusion of innocent people and direct attention away from "preachers of hate" currently based in Britain.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve was dismissive of the changes, saying: "This announcement is more spin than substance. The real issue is preventing extremists from coming here, not advertising it after the event"....
The measures do not go far enough, according to Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne, who also said naming extremists was a "tawdry gimmick" that could lead to ministers being sued for libel....
[He said]: "The real need is for quiet intelligence to tackle British preachers of hate, and to block hate-filled internet sites"....
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, said there should be tougher measures to help remove foreigners inciting violence who are already based in the UK.

In an opinion piece in The Guardian, David Edgar says the new rules make no effort to acknowledge British Muslims who are "seeking to build a distinctly European Islam" that aligns with Western pluralism and politics while upholding Islamic principles.

[Smith's] guidelines do nothing to challenge the dominant narrative by which violent extremism is commonly explained, a narrative that sees even peaceful groups as transmission belts on which insecure Muslims are shuffled towards violence.

Smith's announcement of tougher anti-extremism measures included an admission that technical efforts to establish a centralized database of all E-mail, text, phone, and Web traffic – known as the interception modernization program – will continue despite the fact ministers have put the proposal out to consultation, reports The Guardian. This news triggered reports that the centralization of data had increased the frequency of data breaches in the UK.

The number of data breaches – including lost laptops and memory sticks containing sensitive personal records – reported to [information commissioner Richard Thomas] has risen to 277 since the loss of 25 million child benefit records was disclosed nearly a year ago.
The new figures show that the information commissioner has recently launched investigations into 30 of the most serious cases....
The information commissioner says that data losses have already led to fake credit card transactions, witnesses at risk of physical harm or intimidation, offenders at risk from vigilantes, falsified land registry records and mortgage fraud: "Addresses of service personnel, police and prison officers and battered women have also been exposed. Sometimes lives may be at risk....
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