Friday, August 05, 2005

Myopia - a common affliction of politicians everywhere

It seems that Tony Blair would like to bring the "terrorists" in the UK to heel.

Blair's proposals include:

Banning muslim organizations
Powers to close mosques
Deportation for those who visit "certain bookshops and websites"
Refusal of asylum for someone who "has been involved in terrorism"

I'm not sure just how well the UK body of common law can be brought to bear on this. Having spent the better part of a thousand years evolving since the signing of the Magna Carta, UK Common Law is a complex, baroque system. I suspect that in the long run, Blair's proposals will ultimately collapse under legal challenge. For the most part, the United Kingdom law provides for freedoms of association and religion by sheer force of tradition.

Blair's proposals are deeply troubling. The demonstrate both a xenophobia as well as a serious disrespect for the vast majority of law-abiding citizens of the United Kingdom. Among other things, shutting down a church (or mosque) is a fairly serious breach of freedom of religion. The prospective deportation of someone because they went into "the wrong bookshop" is also very worrisome. Again, it flies in the face of much of what we in 'western' societies have come to understand as "the rule of law".

In Canada, there have been repeated calls to do similar things in law. For the most part, the constitution and the Charter of Rights stands against implementing what Blair is proposing, or even the US "Patriot Act". Without invoking section 33 of the Charter, it would be virtually impossible for a government to make laws which would provide the government with arbitrary powers of arrest, detention and deportation based on what church someone belongs to, or the bookstores they frequent.

Does a country have the right to protect itself? Yes. However, to do so at the expense of basic, and legitimate rights ascribed to people is morally wrong, and to do so in the manner that Blair is suggesting which clearly attacks specific ethnic and religious groups is demonstrative of an unreasoned xenophobia.

Until you have evidence that a crime is either being planned or committed, the rule of law dictates that you must presume that people are law abiding citizens. To arbitrarily engage in "guilt-by-association' is short sighted, and fundamentally stupid.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Armbands identifying religious affiliation are next.