Not Saussure

October 11, 2006

Gordon Brown at Chatham House

Filed under: Al-Qaeda, Chatham House, civil liberties, UK, War on Terror — notsaussure @ 3:34 pm

Gordon Brown’s speech at Chatham House yesterday has been widely reported, primarily for his plans to use

Intelligence from secret sources … for the first time in freezing financial assets as part of a crackdown on terrorist financing designed to prevent a repetition of the 7/7 attacks,

and his renewed backing for ID cards and 90 day detention.

It’s a lengthy document and I’ll be writing about it in more detail over the next few days, no doubt.

I must say, though, that the idea of the government being able pre-emptively to freeze financial assets on the basis of secret intelligence — thus, I assume, denying those whose assets are thus frozen both access to the evidence they may wish to challenge in order to get their money back and the wherewithall to pay lawyers and accountants to challenge the forensic accounting analysis on which Mr Brown will base these seizures is pretty scary. I’m sure Gordon Brown wouldn’t abuse such powers, but what could be done with them in the wrong hands really isn’t pleasant.

At first glance, the speech seems depressingly to focus on Al Qaeda and, in effect, to ignore the sort of points made only last month by Chatham House; that Al Qaeda isn’t a monolithic organisation and that, in any case, its star seems to be on the wane in the Muslim world but, unfortunately, the grievances on which it feeds won’t go away. Gordon Brown says,

Al-Qa’ida’s message – its single narrative – aims to have global resonance – from Afghanistan to the streets of Britain, from the huts and slums of Africa and Asia to every one of the richest cities in every industrial country – a narrative that purports the West is waging a war on your religion, seeks to murder your people, steal your resources and corrupt your culture; that it is your duty and noble cause to defend your people against this attack.

However, as Chatham House put it,

While the re-education of Europe’s Muslim youth in the tenets of traditional Islam might convey the message that the use of terror is unacceptable, thus countering sympathy for al-Qaeda, the problem for European governments remains that a segment within the Muslim community is both politicized and angry at the conduct of foreign policy.

and that

If we were to assume, for example, that in the Middle East secular attitudes prevailed over religious ones and that in place of radical Islamist opposition groups a secular oriented opposition came to dominate, we are still likely to have seen the emergence of terrorist groups to counter prevalent feelings of injustice and powerlessness

Anyway, more later. However, one delightful absurdity has already struck me in the speech; Mr Brown informed his audience,

I believe all who live in this country should learn English, understand our history and culture, take citizenship tests and citizenship ceremonies.

Does this mean that, for example, sitting Labour MPs have to take these tests and go through citizenship ceremonies to celebrate passing? He did say ‘all’, after all.

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