British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a host of measures Friday aimed at punishing those spreading hatred or advocating violence in Britain. Foreigners on the government's black list could be refused entry, or, if already in Britain, could be deported. British nationals could face imprisonment for similar offenses.
Referring to the July 7 London bombings, Prime Minister Tony Blair said the "rules of the game are changing." He said the time has come for Britain to strengthen laws against those inciting extremist views.
At a press conference at 10 Downing Street, his official residence, Mr. Blair outlined a series of rules he wants implemented to counter what he called the new threat. Under the proposed rules, Britain would draw up a list of extremist preachers who will be kept out of Britain. Deportation procedures would be speeded up for foreigners who express extremist views. Those preaching extremism in Britain could be deported or stripped of dual citizenship.
"People cannot come here and abuse our good nature and our tolerance," said Mr. Blair. "They cannot come here and start inciting our young people and communities to take up violence against British people here. And if they do that, they are going to go back. I am sorry, there is no point in us kidding ourselves about the nature of this problem. It is there, it is in our communities and we have got to root it out."
The prime minister rejected criticism that the crackdown on religious radicals would only alienate Muslims living in Britain.
"I think the Muslin community in this country is far more sensible than that. I think that they know perfectly well that these people are a menace to their own community, never mind to the rest of us," added Mr. Blair. "And I believe with the right discussion and consultation, and there has to be that, and that is what I have promised here, it will be supported. "
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the London-based civil rights group, Liberty, says given the government's track record over the past few years, the measures are counterproductive and may, in effect, play into the hands of the terrorists.
"One phrase that he [Blair] used repeatedly was that the "rules of the game would be different now," because people have seen the threat realized. Let us be clear about this; the judiciary and even groups like my own have never underestimated the threat, we just took a different view from the Prime Minister on how to meet it and we think that some of the great injustices that have been perpetrated by terror legislation have made things worse and not better," she said.
Tony Blair says he is willing to amend human rights laws to get his measures implemented. He acknowledged there could be tough judicial battles ahead if, as he expects, his plans are challenged in the courts.