Britain's On Again, Off Again War on Terror

A number of recent developments have illustrated the problems facing the British government as it struggles to combat Islamic terrorism. Most significantly, Britain’s highest court of appeal, the Law Lords, ruled that Abu Qatada, the extremist preacher who has been described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, can be deported to Jordan, where he faces jail for terrorist offenses.

Unfortunately, we haven't seen the back of Qatada just yet. His lawyers are appealing to the European Court of Human Rights, meaning Qatada could remain in Britain for another year or more. And ominously, the very next day, that same European court awarded Qatada and several other terror suspects thousands of pounds in compensation, after ruling that their detention without trial breached their human rights.

Meanwhile, the International Commission of Jurists claimed that British and American actions designed to combat terrorism had undermined international law, and Stella Rimington -- who as the head of MI5 in the 1990s was charged with protecting Britain from terrorists attacks, but these days prefers to endear herself to the chattering classes and boost her book sales with attacks on the UK and U.S. anti-terror policies -- accused the British government of exploiting the public's fear of terrorism to curtail civil liberties.

In other news, a think tank revealed how pupils at some Muslim schools in Britain are being exposed to material that attacks "anti-Islamic" culture and rejects integration (one website likened a child who plays chess to "one who dips his hands in the blood of swine"); librarians were told to move the Bible and other religious books to top shelves, along with the Koran, after Muslims demanded their holy book be placed above other books; and education chiefs decreed that pupils should talk about the July 2005 terror attacks which killed 52 people in London "from the perspective of the bombers" -- a move guaranteed to launch a thousand essays that go something like "alienation, yadda yadda yadda ... British and American foreign policy, yadda yadda yadda."

In other words, it's been a typical couple of weeks in Britain's half-hearted, half-baked war on terror. Many of the government's problems are self-inflicted. On one hand, the security services struggle to combat the immediate threat posed by extremists. On the other hand, ministers signal that they will tolerate a certain degree of extremism with craven acts such as the banning of Geert Wilders, while civil servants and NGOs roll out a steady stream of initiatives which reassure Muslims that, while their integration into British society is desirable, they can pretty much dictate the terms.