Ex­treme re­sponse Why we need a law to beat the racists

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - MOSHE KAN­TOR

BRI­TAIN HAS thou­sands upon thou­sands of crim­i­nal laws on its statute books. Not all of them are ob­vi­ous and some quite triv­ial — for in­stance, you can be pros­e­cuted for queue-jump­ing, for knock­ing on some­one’s door and then run­ning off, even for shak­ing your car­pet or mat in pub­lic.

What you can’t be pros­e­cuted for, how­ever, is spout­ing ex­trem­ist ha­tred in the streets. If you scream at a pass­ing Jewish fam­ily that you wished the Nazis were here to mur­der them in the ovens of Auschwitz, you are, in the eyes of the law, within your rights to do so. That your views are warped, in­cen­di­ary and ap­palling is be­side the point — your vile ex­trem­ism breaks no law.

Equally, ver­bal at­tacks on black peo­ple, Mus­lims, Asians — in­deed any reli­gious or cul­tural mi­nor­ity — are within the bounds of the law. You might ar­gue that words are harm­less and that most right­think­ing peo­ple will of course re­ject such abuse, but that is not the is­sue. Such in­tol­er­ance is wrong and, if the law for­bids it, most peo­ple will con­sider it to be wrong. But at the mo­ment it doesn’t.

In his re­cent speech at the Con­ser­va­tive Party Con­fer­ence, David Cameron talked about end­ing the cul­ture of “pas­sive tol­er­ance” of ex­trem­ism in the UK. His words could not have come soon enough. For too long, due to a mis­guided no­tion of po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and com­mit­ment to mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, we have turned a blind eye to ex­trem­ist be­hav­iour in our midst. And, though some may re­gard such hate-fu­elled prej­u­dice as dam­ag­ing, our laws gov­ern­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion al­low for the hold­ing and shar­ing of such views.

For this rea­son, I wel­come the ac­tions the Gov­ern­ment is tak­ing to counter ex­trem­ism. How­ever, its strat­egy does not go nearly far enough. Let­ting par­ents re­voke pass­ports if they think their kids will join Isis and send­ing ex­trem­ists back to school is all well and good, but this barely scratches the sur­face of what is nec­es­sary.

This is why the work un­der­taken by the le­gal ex­perts at the Euro­pean Coun­cil on Tol­er­ance and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion (ECTR) is so im­por­tant, and timely.

The ECTR, of which I am pres­i­dent and founder, has brought to­gether five of the best le­gal brains in the world to draft le­gal pro­vi­sions — called The Model Law For the Pro­mo­tion of Tol­er­ance (The Model Law) — that can be en­acted by par­lia­ments around Europe to tackle ex­trem­ism and com­bat the rise of vi­o­lent hate and in­tol­er­ance in the UK and Europe.

The Model Law states that there is no place for “tol­er­ance of the in­tol­er­ant” in mod­ern so­ci­ety. It seeks to in­tro­duce for the first time into Bri­tish law novel pro­vi­sions in­clud­ing stronger safe­guards against hate speech, the in­tro­duc­tion of group li­bel, spe­cific men­tion of an­tisemitism, out­law­ing of Holo­caust de­nial, and ed­u­ca­tional ini­tia­tives from pri­mary school up­wards pro­mot­ing tol­er­ance, di­ver­sity and re­spect.

Ten­sions be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, grow­ing in­sti­tu­tional dis­trust and non­sen­si­cal le­gal red tape mean that it is vi­tal to take in­no­va­tive le­gal steps to ad­dress this very real and grow­ing threat. It is time to leg­is­late against acts that are in­tol­er­a­ble, but against which we cur­rently have no re­course.

With­out th­ese pro­vi­sions, we will, for ex­am­ple, con­tinue to see peo­ple take ad­van­tage of weak­nesses in our le­gal sys­tem and, for in­stance, al­low them to openly and ac­tively pro­mote rad­i­cal Is­lam in this coun­try.

The banned ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion Al-Muha­jiroun was al­lowed to op­er­ate with im­punity, de­spite nearly one in five of those con­victed of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism of­fences or killed in sui­cide at­tacks in the UK be­tween 1999 and 2010 hav­ing links to the group.

The 7/7 bomb­ings, the mur­der of Drum­mer Lee Rigby and the plot to blow up the Min­istry of Sound night club were all linked to AlMuha­jiroun, a group that evaded the law by sim­ply re­nam­ing it­self and op­er­at­ing un­der dif­fer­ent aliases. This not only demon­strates that the laws in the UK and across Europe are ill-suited for their pur­pose, but also that the cul­ture of rad­i­cal Is­lam is not be­ing ad­dressed with ad­e­quate leg­is­la­tion.

It is not only the rise in Is­lamist in­tol­er­ance that is dam­ag­ing to so­ci­ety; we are also see­ing the resur­gence of the far-right across Europe, at a na­tional and Euro­pean level, demon­strat­ing that in­tol­er­ance is be­ing con­doned, of­ten at the high­est lev­els, un­der the guise of democ­racy and free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

The re­cent for­ma­tion of a far­right group in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment by France’s Na­tional Front and the Dutch PVV marks a wor­ry­ing step in the Euro­pean Union’s jour­ney. Equally, the rise in sup­port for neo-Nazi par­ties in­clud­ing Hun­gary’s openly an­ti­semitic Job­bik party, Greece’s vi­o­lent, neo-fas­cist Gold Dawn, or in­deed the Bri­tish Na­tional Party, should be viewed as a ret­ro­grade step.

An­other im­por­tant and unique fea­ture of the Model Law is the pro­vi­sion that schools, from pri­mary level up­wards, should teach cour­ses on tol­er­ance, di­ver­sity and re­spect. The UK gov­ern­ment’s re­cent push to counter ex­trem­ism in uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges ac­knowl­edges the sig­nif­i­cance of ed­u­ca­tion in this strug­gle, but will not be far-reach­ing enough on its own to have the nec­es­sary longterm im­pact.

We like to think that each gen­er­a­tion teaches the next to be wiser, more for­giv­ing and less in­tol­er­ant; that we shape so­ci­ety so that those who come af­ter us are left with a pro- gres­sively bet­ter world. One where, for in­stance, mo­ronic foot­ball fans aren’t able to get away with glo­ri­fy­ing the gas cham­ber hiss on a Satur­day af­ter­noon. Or where so-called his­to­ri­ans aren’t able to stage in­cen­di­ary, Holo­caust-deny­ing con­ven­tions in five-star ho­tels a short walk away from the House of Com­mons.

Gov­ern­ments, leg­is­la­tors, reli­gious lead­ers and the me­dia seek to guide, in­flu­ence and, once in a while, truly trans­form so­ci­ety. This is one of those mo­ments.

In Europe, Jews are still be­ing gunned down just for be­ing Jews, and in Bri­tain racist thugs who call them­selves preach­ers spout, with im­punity, mur­der­ous mes­sages and in­spire mur­der­ous acts in the name of re­li­gion.

Such be­hav­iour is the tragic cul­mi­na­tion of al­low­ing ha­tred to fo­ment, of al­low­ing the tyranny of the few to in­stil fear and ter­ror in the many.

Our so­ci­ety is fac­ing a crit­i­cal test, Hav­ing ex­hausted many other op­tions, it is now the turn of the law and le­gal re­course to act as a nec­es­sary cor­rec­tive.

Dr Moshe Kan­tor is Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil on Tol­er­ance and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion


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