Leaders want ‘concrete’ plan to fight terror after Woolwich

Well-wishers lay flowers at the scene where Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich (Photo: AP)

Well-wishers lay flowers at the scene where Drummer Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich (Photo: AP)

Communal leaders were tight-lipped this week over possible new legislation aimed at tackling extremism and hate speakers in the wake of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich.

Home Secretary Theresa May confirmed the government would review its counter-terror strategy and is expected to consider a range of new measures to combat radicalisation of Muslims.

Such moves would be welcomed by Jewish bodies which have long campaigned for a ban on extreme Islamist organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, and for universities to crack down on radical speakers on campus.

But groups including the Community Security Trust and Union of Jewish Students said they were waiting to see “concrete proposals”.

There was a mass outpouring of support for interfaith and anti-fascist groups’ work in the aftermath of the attack in which Drummer Lee Rigby was killed on Wednesday last week.

Jewish leaders backed a campaign launched by the Hope Not Hate organisation to urge faith communities to work together, aimed partly at countering the anti-Muslim activities of the right-wing English Defence League.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: “We will campaign against the preachers of hate and those who seek to divide us and say clearly and in unison — there is no place for hate in Britain.”

Masorti Judaism chief executive Matt Plen denounced “retaliatory actions” against Muslims, and Liberal Judaism chief executive Danny Rich said the attack should “be a call to unite all decent people of all faiths and none”.

Leonie Lewis, Faiths Forum for London co-chair, and executives from the Board of Deputies attended an event held at a London community centre at which Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg praised diversity.

Board president Vivian Wineman said he had been in close contact with Faith and Communities Minister Baroness Warsi following the Woolwich attack. “What this incident has shown is that there’s a lot to fear from disorganised jihadis as well as organised jihadi groups. We are pleased the government is continuing to look at it,” he said.

Richard Benson, CST chief executive, said Communities Minister Don Foster had contacted the group the day after Drummer Rigby was killed to discuss possible community tensions and to pledge government support.

But Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles, Baroness Warsi, Mr Foster and other government representatives all declined to speak to the JC about efforts to maintain community cohesion.

CST issued a security bulletin but said there was no information to suggest the Jewish community would be targeted. There have been no reports of antisemitic incidents directly linked to the Woolwich attack.

CST was among organisations that offered advice to Tell MAMA — the Muslim group set up to record Islamophobic attacks. It reported dozens of anti-Muslim incidents across the country in the past week, including petrol-bombing of mosques. The group said it had received messages of support from Jews in the aftermath of the attacks.

Last updated: 2:45pm, May 30 2013