Monday 27 May 2013

UK moves to gag ‘poisonous’ radical #preachers, clamp down on #Internet extremism

The UK Prime Minister has announced an anti-terror task force to clamp down on the "poisonous narratives" of radical preachers who target recruits in schools, jails and mosques. However, some fear the government’s efforts could actually worsen extremism.
According to the Daily Mail, the unit was launched by Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of the brutal murder of Lee Rigby, a 25-year-old drummer in the British Army. Rigby was beheaded in southeast London’s Woolwich neighborhood by two men who said the murder was motivated by the UK’s involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Tackling Extremism and Radicalization Task Force (TERFOR) will be composed of key Cabinet ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Home Secretary Theresa May and Chancellor George Osborne, as well as Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Director General of the Security Service Andrew Parker.

“We are looking at the range of powers and current methods of dealing with extremism at its root, as opposed to just tackling criminal violent extremism. And we will look at ways of disrupting individuals who may be influential in fostering extremism. We cannot allow a situation to continue where extremist clerics go around this country inciting young people to commit terrorist acts. We will do everything we can to stop it,” an unidentified source told the Daily Mail.

TERFOR will study a number of young people who have become radicalized, like Rigby’s murderers, the newspaper reported. The source stressed that “there is no question of restricting freedom of speech – this is about preventing people spreading the message of extremism and radicalization in a totally irresponsible and reckless way.”

Last week, three men were taken into custody for anti-Muslim speech on Twitter and Facebook, and one was charged with "malicious communications" on Facebook. Two others were arrested under the Public Order Act “on suspicion of inciting racial or religious hatred.”

Demonstrators protest against the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby, outside the Woolwich barracks in southeast London May 26, 2013 (Reuters / Olivia Harris)
Demonstrators protest against the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby, outside the Woolwich barracks in southeast London May 26, 2013 (Reuters / Olivia Harris)

Terror videos a hit on the Internet

While Cameron asks UK Muslims to be more proactive in condemning Islamist terrorism, there are hundreds of videos promoting terror and telling British Muslims to wage jihad available on the Internet, including Al-Qaeda training videos and sermons.

Google chief Eric Schmidt, whose company owns YouTube, believes some of the videos could help intelligence services and police track down potential terrorists. “We have taken the decision that information, if it’s legal, even if it’s despicable, will be indexed,” Schmidt said during the Hay literary festival.

UK Home Secretary Theresa May said on Sunday that it is “essential” to grant intelligence agencies the capacity to access communications data, despite overwhelming opposition to the Draft Communications Data Bill revealed last year.

The bill – widely known as the ‘snooper’s charter’ – would have given agencies, including police and intelligence services, access to information and data collection by Internet service providers, including web browsing histories, social media messages and online gaming, storing them all for 12 months.

Shortly after the killing last week, UK authorities slammed the media for giving airtime to radical cleric Anjem Choudary, who refused to condemn the attack. "A mistake of the BBC to invite Anjem Choudary onto the telly tonight," shadow Defense Secretary Jim Murphy wrote on Twitter.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has decried Rigby’s murder in a statement on its website, saying that “after Woolwich, we understand the Prime Minister needs an effective strategy in the face of such a horrific instance of extremism.”

“The killers of Drummer Lee Rigby attempted to sow division amongst Britons through the propaganda of their deed. Yet in large numbers, British Muslims stood up and declared loudly and clearly that this murder was not in our name,” the MCB said.

However, the group went on to stress that it still hoped “wisdom prevails” in how the government handles the issue:  "We must be vigilant and ensure we do not inadvertently give into the demands of all extremists: Making our society less free, divided and suspicious of each other. Lessons from the past indicate that policies and measures taken in haste can exacerbate extremism."

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