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Simon Parke: Spotting the extremists

13 May 2009

WELCOME to Britain! We hope you enjoy your stay. Although, on reflec­tion, you’re banned — and you’re banned, and, yes, you two are definitely banned.

The Government is currently banning about five people a month from entering the country, using the powers granted after the 7 July bombings in 2005. Who are these people? Well, now we know, after a “Least Wanted” list was recently published by the Home Office.

It was billed as an attempt to “name and shame” these preachers of hate; although “name and publicise their cause” is probably a more ac­cur­ate assessment. You cannot shame an extremist.

Those who are banned are, it says, suspected of “fomenting, justifying, or glorifying terrorist activity”. The list includes a Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger leader, four members of a neo-Nazi group, and, from the United States, Michael Savage, the right-wing radio chat-show host.

Ranked 61st by Bernard Goldberg in his book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, Mr Savage is accused of racism, homophobia, and of suggesting that college girls help the homeless in San Francisco be­cause they are “excited by the idea of rape”.

Neither is Mr Savage a friend of the President, asking whether Barack “Madrasah” Obama is “a so-called friendly Muslim”, or one more rad­ical.

Another man banned from entering the UK is the Christian leader, Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, in Kansas, whose gospel can be summed up in his slogan: “God hates fags”. It is his belief that most natural disasters and terrorist attacks are God’s punish­ment for a society that tolerates homo­sexuality. Fortunately, society does not tolerate perjury in court, which is why Fred Phelps can no longer practice as a lawyer; he is banned from doing that as well.

The internet ensures that no coun­try is an island, entire of itself. Ex­treme websites multiply; yet the Government has so far failed to close down even one. Bans may deny us extremist flesh — but not their ex­tremist ideas. Some will say that such people feed on the martyr complex, and that the best way to expose them is to put them in the glare of democratic debate. Let them become an object of fun, rather than some mildly interesting forbidden fruit.

But for Jacqui Smith, our Home Secretary, it is a matter of principle. As she says, “Coming to the UK is a privilege, and I refuse to extend that privilege to individuals who abuse our standards and values.”

Strong words. Unfortunately, if you Google “Jacqui Smith”, you find that before anything about policy you have to get past other headings such as “expenses”, “husband”, and “second home”.

Standards and values? Which par­ti­cular ones are we talking about here?



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