Analyst Barry Rubin argues here that the United Kingdom has turned a corner in dealing with radical Islam. He cites three decisions:
-- to bar Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim El Moussaoui from entering Britain (see this earlier entry);
-- to cut ties to the Muslim Council of Britain, an Islamist group that had been advising the government on how to combat radical Islam;
-- and a new policy of focusing on combating Islamist ideology (one hopes this replaces the earlier speech code in which the term 'Islamist' was never used).
Rubin rightly notes that pressure for the first two decisions came from a new think-tank, the Centre for Social Cohesion, that publicized the cases. In addition, it threatened to sue the government if Moussaoui were allowed to enter.
As for the new policy, let's hope it's 'for real'. After all, it was announced by the same Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, who a month or so ago barred Geert Wilders from entering the UK to watch a viewing of his film Fitna at the House of Lords. She is now calling on British citizens to defend their values - which sounds like an excellent idea.
One way the government could demonstrate its commitment would be to terminate its endorsement of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board. As Rubin puts it:
"The Board has generally, for eight of the last nine years, boycotted the Holocaust day commemoration because it says that Israel is carrying out 'genocide' against Muslims. Its leadership has condemned homosexuality as unacceptable, blamed terrorism in Britain exclusively on the country's involvement in invading Iraq, and advocated a law that would — at least in its interpretation — bar criticism of Islam as religious hatred. This is the group that the British government has entrusted with preparing materials for Muslim schools."
The ability of a small group of researchers to expose facts that, in turn, forced the government to change its policies, confirms the importance of freedom of speech.