Guess who Pauline Neville-Jones, the new security minister, chose for her first post-election interview? The BBC? The Telegraph? The Guardian? No: bizarrely, it was the Islam Channel, the Islamist-linked satellite broadcaster whose chief executive, Mohammed Ali Harrath, is the subject of an Interpol “red notice” for terrorist offences. Only eighteen months ago, Neville-Jones was demanding that Harrath be sacked.
The Islam Channel also has a programme presented by a senior officer of Hizb ut Tahrir, the group the Tories wanted to ban. Talk about outreach, Pauline! No wonder the presenter told her they were “honoured to be the recipients of your generosity.”
It was quite a revealing interview, too, in which she went significantly further than the detailed coalition agreement published last week. Among her commitments not mentioned in that agreement:
To “narrow [the] scope” of stop-and-search;
To “look at the whole question of pre-charge detention and whether it is justified;”
To “review the operation of Prevent,” the much-criticised counter-extremism initiative;
To produce a “national integration strategy – a conscious attempt to bring people together as Brits, irrespective of gender [or] ethnic origin.”
To “see… if we can, consistent with security, actually abolish the operation and the use of control orders.” (The coalition agreement promises only to review them.)
This is all very encouraging stuff – I’ve written a piece for this week’s Spectator calling for much the same things, as part of a new “compact” with the Muslim community. It is clear that the harm done by blanket stop-and-search, 28-day detention and the rest outweighs what (very limited) use they have against terrorism.
The other part of my suggested “compact” is also, however, that we must stop pandering to Islamists, like so many at the East London Mosque, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Forum of Europe that readers of this blog will be familiar with. The IFE and the rest of them are top favourites with the Islam Channel. So joking aside, Neville-Jones’ choice of media outlet is a potentially worrying sign.
She also stated: “We will bear down on extremism, but we are going to do it across the board. Right-wing extremists are no more going to be allowed to behave in society in ways which undermine the values we all stand for than anyone else.”
This seems to nod towards one of the Islamists’ favourite tricks – claiming equivalence between right-wing terrorism and Islamic terrorism. There are, of course, parallels – but there is no equivalence. There has only ever been one fatal white fascist terrorist attack in Britain, more than eleven years ago, which killed three people. The perpetrator was a loner guided more by personal hatred than by any sort of coherent ideology. The danger from Islamic terrorism is of a different order of magnitude.
So seven out of ten, Pauline: but do watch whose studio sofa you sit on.