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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Terror attacks: Lib Dem views
Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Dholakia
Wallace and Dholakia warns against a backlash
Two senior Liberal Democrat peers give BBC News Online their views on the way ahead and the wider implications of the atrocities. Lord Dholakia is president of the Liberal Democrats while Lord Wallace of Saltaire is the party's defence spokesman in the House of Lords.

Lord Dholakia

Our general sympathies are with the government in terms of taking actions which are proportionate and properly focused.

I believe that all of us, irrespective of race, religion or nationality, are affected by the events in America. Americans, British, Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis - you name it - died there.

We must not allow our civilised values to be dictated by cases of this nature

Lord Dholakia
This is an attack on the civilised world and our democratic values, but I am going beyond that in my thinking now.

We must work against terrorism eroding our own liberties - what we must not allow is terrorism to curtail those liberties.

Defeating terrorism

We must bring the murderers which perpetrated these vile crimes to justice but that alone does not defeat terrorism - we must tackle also the underlying causes.

Thinking this through, I am now coming round to saying very clearly that we need a national and international strategy but we also need to look at ourselves and make sure the action we take anywhere does not cause a backlash at any of our communities.

Wreckage at the World Trade Center
Dholakia says people of all creeds were killed in New York
I condemn any attacks on Muslims - at the end of the day that brings us down to the level of communal terrorism.

Islam is one of the world's great religions. It does not preach violence but some misguided people may misinterpret it.

The Muslim community is petrified to go about its daily business, even in this country, where some people have been attacked racially.

Race relations effect

Terrorism does affect the whole process of race relations. The immediate reaction is that people tend to talk about Muslim or Islamic terrorists but terrorism has no religion, creed or class.

We have got to guard against racism - Bush and Blair, my own leader Charles Kennedy and others have quite effectively given warnings about this.

What we have got to ensure is that we must never allow our civilised values to make people suffer and we must ensure too the protection of communities that had no part whatsoever in these vile atrocities.

There has been talk of tightening immigration policies now but with millions of Afghans and others fleeing their countries we must offer shelter to refugees.

Take this analogy. In a civilised country like ours we always have cases that cause aversion - for example, the murders committed by Rosemary and Fred West or Myra Hindley.

I am saying that we must not allow our civilised values to be dictated by cases of this nature.

We must deal with it dispassionately. We must not allow our criminal justice system to be hijacked in this way.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

"So far, so well" is my assessment of the government's handling of this situation.

We have got to make sure that in any response we hit the right targets and are not indiscriminate.

The worst thing would be a punishment attack, so to speak, which expresses the anger of the US but actually does not do very much to get at the perpetrators.

We do not want to give trans-national terrorists the status of combatants in a war

Lord Wallace

Of course, there is a danger that recruitment could be made easier for terrorist organisations if there is huge scale and indiscriminate action.

Some voices in the US have been talking about a ground invasion of Afghanistan or even an invasion of Iraq.

Thankfully, reasonable voices appear to be prevailing because we clearly do not wish to destabilise moderate regimes in the Middle East.

Mature response

I think we have all been encouraged by the US response. It has been very mature and very measured.

We support the government and its backing for the US but there should be no blank cheques.

Charles Kennedy, Liberal Democrat leader
Kennedy has stressed the US attacks should not affect the asylum debate
I do not think war is an appropriate term for this situation - it is a much more complicated situation, it is a different kind of situation which needs a different response.

We also do not want to give trans-national terrorists the status of combatants in a war.

The nature of the case means it is very hard to establish the exact nature of the terrorist network - the British have found that with the IRA and the Spanish with the Basque separatists.

As for how the aftermath of these attacks will change people's daily lives, it will affect everybody in Europe less than in the US because, particularly in Britain, we have got used to tougher security restrictions over the last 30 years.

People forget this - I can remember when cycling into Downing Street in the mid-1970s and padlocking my bike to the railings.

Preventing a backlash

While I am not sure this situation will affect British life too much, we do have to be careful to avoid a backlash against immigrants coming here.

It is giving me a lot of concern - we do not link all Catholics with the IRA so we should not do the same with Muslims.

It does require very good domestic political leadership and again I welcome the fact that President Bush made a big show of appearing in a Mosque last week.

I think the British government needs to do more of the same thing to show our high regard for the Muslim community as a very valuable part of British society.

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