The refusal of Londoners to be frightened by the bombings of 7 July has been generally impressive. It is just a shame that the spirit of fearless normality has been breached by the one body which should, above all others, be setting an example: Her Majesty’s Government. While encouraging others not to panic, Mr Blair and his ministers have themselves been drawn into drafting proposals for hurried and ill-thought-out legislation. The measures floated by the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, seem to change by the day, but as far as we can ascertain it is likely that there will soon be a law prohibiting ‘acts preparatory to terrorism’, a law against ‘indirect incitement of terrorist activities’ and some kind of sanction against ‘glorifying or condoning terrorism’.
In the shadow of the bombings, there is an overwhelming case for action against the demented mullahs who claim that blowing yourself up on a bus or a train is about the highest calling to which a man can aspire. But is a rash of new legislation really the best way to tackle the terrorist threat? There is already a profusion of law on the statute book which can, and should, be used to prosecute those encouraging others to commit such barbaric crimes. The law against incitement may be used for the prosecution of any mullah who eggs on suicide bombers. Equally, those who prime bombs, offer instruction to suicide bombers, or even pop down to their nearest Karrimor outlet to purchase a rucksack on behalf of one, can be jailed for acting as an accomplice to murder.
All that the proposed laws appear to add is confusion. The Home Office minister Hazel Blears has suggested that an offence of indirect incitement to terrorism could be used to prosecute anyone who described a suicide-attacker as a ‘martyr’. As far as we can make out, there would be little to prevent the police leading the Archbishop of Canterbury off in chains for preaching on Samson’s bringing-down of the temple. Equally, a law against glorifying terrorism would surely condemn to jail a large portion of the Guardian’s leader-writers and columnists for their continued f