HAYES IN THE HOUSE: BY local MP John Hayes
Last week’s shocking terrorist attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris –deliberate assaults on the principle of free speech and the Jewish community respectively – took 17 innocent lives, and remind us of the need for constant vigilance against the threat from Islamic extremism.
The terrifying reality is that the type of horrific attacks we saw in the French capital could happen here in the UK. Indeed the Head of MI5, Andrew Parker, recently made a rare public speech in which he revealed that the authorities had stopped three terrorist plots in this country over recent months.
Thanks to the hard work of the police and intelligence agencies our nation remains safe.
There is plenty we can do, and are doing, to prevent these terrorists from causing carnage. We must continue to confront extremism in every way we can. That means giving our security services all the tools they need, and so the Prime Minister has backed calls from the intelligence services for greater powers to monitor internet communications.
The online threat mutates as extremists develop new and more secretive ways of interacting – our security services must be one step ahead and must never be let down by a lack of funding or resources. We cannot hope to stop them with one hand tied behind our back.
Sadly, some –mostly on the left of the political spectrum, but also opportunists and fringe parties of all descriptions– oppose these sensible surveillance measures on the spurious grounds of civil liberties.
But those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear; and those engaging in extremist ideologies and plotting acts of violence should be monitored.
It’s funny how those supposedly in favour of a right to free speech are often the same people who debate on topics they deem offensive, such as immigration; foisting their curious politically correct worldview on others.
Confronting extremism also involves defeating the poisonous narrative of Islamism. Peaceful Muslims in this country can do more; as my friend and ministerial colleague Sajid Javid MP wisely said in response to the atrocities in Paris: “There is a special burden on Muslim communities, because whether we like it or not, these terrorists call themselves Muslims.”
The magazine attacked in Paris published cartoons that many would find offensive, but as George Orwell observed: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Yet to respond to these acts of terrorism by blithely insisting that liberty should be unbound misses the point. Freedom can only be guaranteed by constant vigilance. We must do all we can to stop those who wish to do us harm.
That’s why we are preventing suspected terrorists from entering the country, by introducing measures to exclude British passport holders who have been radicalised. We must do whatever is necessary to stop the spread of this evil doctrine; monitor extremists, disrupt and arrest plotters, and lock them up for life.