So what are we to make of the deportation of these 10 individuals who, claim the government, pose a “threat to national security”? On the one hand, I find the ideology of these people utterly repugnant. On the other hand, it’s a sign of our status as a sophisticated democracy that we can tolerate and contain them, no matter what they think. Then again, why should a democracy that prides itself on its tolerance put up with those who would seek to destroy that? People that would advocate, support and even involve themselves with the murder of innocent people in the name of their “cause”?
Amongst the ten is “radical cleric” Abu Qatada, also described as “Al Qaeda’s spiritual ambassador”. He fled Jordan in 1993, accused of acts of terrorism, came to Britain claiming asylum and has lived here ever since (residing at Belmarsh prison from 2002 to March 2005). He is a known preacher of hate and has been linked with Al Qaeda operatives. Now he’s going to be extradited back to Jordan where he faces imprisonment. Human rights lawyers, meanwhile, are mounting a challenge in his defence claiming that his safety cannot be guaranteed in Jordan – not exactly the birthplace of citizen’s rights. This is probably going to drag on for years, at enormous expense to the taxpayer.
This is a real liberal dilemma. I don’t doubt at all that Abu and the rest of this mob are a threat to national security (or at least would be, given the chance) but at the same time, we have to uphold the rule of law - and they haven't actually been convicted of anything yet. I’m not comfortable with Britain compromising a single one of its democratic ideals, no matter how vile the person in question. I see that as capitulation: we would be cheapening our credentials as a civilised nation and moving towards that which we are resisting (just like Guantanamo Bay, which has tarnished America’s reputation in many quarters). Could it be the thin end of the wedge? Would there be another group targeted next? Should we just trust the government on this one? At the same time, the “ideals” of these people simply are not compatible with our own, and I’m certainly not personally concerned with their welfare, to be perfectly honest.
Oh, does anyone have any answers?!?