A small, brave band of commentators (commanding officer : Mark Steyn) argue that Europe has lost the will to survive, that its contribution to civilisation lies only in the past, and so the more vital and assertive Muslims are bound one day to take over the continent. The story of Abu Qatada gives credence to this dark prospect. The way that Britain has handled this man is not just incompetent, or a revelation of bureaucratic flaws, but a cautionary tale about a nation losing control of its fate.
Abu Qatada is Jordanian by birth, and now aged 44. An Islamist, he committed acts of terror in his own country, where a warrant is out for his arrest on charges of murder. In 1993 he arrived in Britain on a forged passport of the United Arab Emirates. Claiming asylum, he was soon granted refugee status. Mistake number one. Next he claimed and was granted welfare benefits amounting to $2,000 a month. Mistake number two.
Mistake number three was not to identify Abu Qatada and his role. He was Osama bin Laden’s liaison in Europe, properly described as his “ambassador.” He had proven links to all the top al Qaeda terrorists. He raised funds, he gave inflammatory sermons. After 9/11 he went on the run. Finally arrested, he has been held in a top security prison for some three years, contrary to the ancient practice of habeas corpus – mistake number four. Instead of bringing him to trial, the government was all the time trying to deport him to answer the warrant out for him in Jordan. This proved impossible. In 1998 the government incorporated into British law the European Convention of Human Rights, one article of which states that nobody can be deported to a country where torture or other degrading treatment is likely. This was mistake number five, and the biggest of all. Jordan gave guarantees that Abu Qatada would be treated lawfully. Nonetheless, in mistake number six, appeal judges sitting on the case have decided that he cannot be returned to his own country. There is now no justification for holding him in prison, and in mistake number seven, Abu Qatada will soon be free to live in Britain once more at taxpayer’s expense, a living proof of Islamist power and victory over others.
The human rights crowd, and their apostles in Brussels who impose these rights, the whole legal fraternity who gleefully enforce such measures, are playing with the lives and futures of us all. Derogation from the Human Rights Convention is the only obvious course, but the human rights crowd all say this can’t be done. To protect through the law people like Abu Qatada is to have an absurdly unrealistic view of human nature, and also in the name of doing justice to one person to commit injustice to everyone else. Abu Qatada may be surprised to be allowed the freedom to do his worst, but he cannot really be blamed for taking advantage of it. Observing the run of self-harming mistakes that the British authorities permit and encourage, other terrorists cannot be blamed either if they flock to Britain to help attack and undermine it, and all paid for by the British taxpayer into the bargain. It’s clear how we got ourselves into this suicidal position, but it is far from clear how we get out of it, or if we ever will.