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Control Orders seek to address the symptoms of terrorism and extremism. But it's even more important to deal with the causes.

by Paul Goodman

If Britain's facing a public emergency because of terrorism, the Government should derogate from the relevant sections of the European Convention on Human Rights, and introduce large-scale detention without charge, as it did during World War Two in the form of the 18B provisions.  If it's not, suspects should be subject to surveillance and, if evidence of terrorist activity is unearthed, charged with offences: this is the way the state proceeded during a relatively recent IRA campaign which lasted over 20 years, and it strikes the right balance between liberty and security.  Other countries find ways of putting evidence before a court: so should we.

Some will concentrate this morning on whether the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats prevailed on control orders, asking in effect whether yesterday's announcement helps to prove Montgomerie's Law of the Coalition or Goodman's Coalition Dilemma.  However, the question lacks force in this context, since many Conservatives are as resistant to control orders as the Liberal Democrats.  More importantly, they can be a means of mistaking symptoms for causes, as we fix our gaze on those who come off the conveyor belt to terror, rather than focus our attention on trying to stop people getting on it in the first place.

The old saying applies: prevention's better than cure.  Tearing up the plant of terrorism won't work if its roots are left in place.  And it's evident that one of the main roots is ideology, drawn from particular Salafist/Wahabi teachings and targeted at young Muslims in some Universities, prisons, youth clubs and the internet.  I've set out some of the evidence previously, describing the middle class converts who want to bomb us.  More has happened since then: for example, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the suicide bomber who blew himself up in Sweden, became radicalised while studying and living in Luton.

Prevention is also very difficult.   Britain is but one location in which this conflict against terrorism and extremism is being acted out - one threatre in which a struggle for the future of Islam's taking place between its mainstream tradition (for which I've great respect) and an extremist reformation.  Most politicians aren't theologians, let alone Muslim theologians.  Nor should they be.  But they must have a prevention strategy, which must of necessity include clear rules about what groups and individuals government must engage with, share platforms with, let into the country and - if necessary - fund.

As part of David Cameron's team charged with dealing with these issues during the last Parliament, I fought for the following.  No engagement with, sharing platforms with or admission to Britain for those who support attacks on our troops, on civilians or who incite hatred and violence.  And when it comes to funds, a higher bar still: no taxpayers' money for those who refuse to sign up to what are often called "British values".  There's debate (as there should be) about what these are, but my view was that, at a minimum, those in receipt of state funding must unambiguously accept Britain's liberal democratic settlement.

Cameron got the issue in opposition, calling for Yusuf Al Qaradwi to be barred from entering the UK, ordering the front bench to break off relations with the Muslim Council of Britain after the Daud Abdullah controversy, and making it plain that the Muslim Brotherhood, and groups associated with it, shouldn't receive public money or sit on public bodies.  And to date, this approach has predominated in government.  Theresa May banned Zakir Naik, a hate preacher, from entering the UK, and told last autumn's Party conference that "we will tackle extremism by challenging its bigoted ideology head-on".

Charles Moore wrote a column recently reporting that "over Christmas" the Prime Minister considered what to do next, and will soon "set out his ideas in a big speech".  A review of the Prevent part of the Government's counter-terror strategy is due soon, and Cameron knows well that elements in the civil service, the security services, the police, and - as we know from Sayeeda Warsi's recent speech and the dispute over a conference attendance - the Conservative Party aren't signed up to his Government's policy.  His party in Parliament as well as Government is also being tested.  We'll soon learn if both have passed.


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