In an effort to curb religious and ethnic hatred, the British House of Commons passed legislation last month to tighten standards and increase punitive measures against anyone who incites such hatred.
"The idea is to protect all citizens from religious fanatics who preach hate," said Nazir Ahmed, 47, a member of the House of Lords from Yorkshire who is visiting Washington this week. The measure, he said, would apply to extremist Islamic imams as well as nativist British zealots. Violators would face seven years in prison.
Ahmed said the House of Lords was likely to approve the bill.
"We have clearly said there is no room for incitement of hatred, and we have to make sure everyone understands," he stressed. "It should not be tolerated."
Ahmed is heading one of several working groups created by Prime Minister Tony Blair in the wake of the July 7 bombings in London to review related issues of extremism, education, foreign policy, mosques, and the training and accreditation of Muslim clerics in Britain.
"We want to make sure that freedom of religion and expression are respected. However, we have very serious concerns about some of the religious figures that have come to our country from the Asian subcontinent, the Middle East and North Africa," Ahmed said Tuesday.
"It is important that they speak the language . . . and understand the culture of tolerance and coexistence, which is also part of Islam," he emphasized. He said imams should be well-trained, respected and have proper salaries. The group plans to recommend that mosques offer English and citizenship classes, with state aid if needed, "so their communities can be properly assimilated," Ahmed added.
Ahmed, whose Washington trip was sponsored by the British government, will also attend a meeting of the Islamic Society of North America in Chicago.
Sharing the Wealth, or Not
Which are the most generous countries? Not necessarily the very largest or wealthiest ones, report the Center for Global Development and Foreign Policy magazine.
Denmark ranked at the top of the list as a model global country, according to the 2005 Commitment to Development Index released Tuesday by the two institutions. They rated 21 developed nations with respect to a number of government policies affecting developing countries. Germany ranked 7th and Britain 10th. The United States was 12th, and Japan ranked last.
The index rated countries not only in terms of how much they give but also according to policies related to trade, investment, migration, environment and security.
Nancy Birdsall, president of the center, said the index highlights the contradictions between what rich countries say about their efforts to eradicate poverty and what they actually do. She spoke at a teleconference announcing the index.
"The purpose of the index was to create a conversation in rich countries about what it means to be a global citizen," Moises Naim, editor and publisher of Foreign Policy, said in a telephone interview. "We are not just talking about aid volumes; we are also asking questions about whether this aid is going to tyrants and corrupt dictators."
Naim suggested that peacekeeping can do little good if the same countries providing peacekeeping are also exporting weapons.
"There is this paradox," he said. "Today weapons sales to poor countries have achieved a five-year peak. The magical beauty of this index is that it captures all this. It is not just 'show me the money,' but about the quality of what is given."
Highlights of the report are published in the September/October issue of Foreign Policy. One surprise is that there is an inverse correlation between church attendance and aid, indicating that preaching and practicing do not necessarily go together.
China and Human Rights
As President Bush prepares to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Sept. 7, Amnesty International is sending Bush a letter to raise a number of human rights issues, including the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the missing 11th Panchen Lama, who ranks second to the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism.
On May 14, 1995, Tibet's exiled leader announced that the boy, then 6, was the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama. The child and his parents disappeared and are believed to be held in a secret location by Chinese authorities. Chinese-supported monks appointed another boy as the Panchen Lama. Gedhun, now about 16, has not been seen for 10 years.
"The scale of China's human rights violations is staggering," Amnesty said in its letter Friday to Bush. The group has not taken a position on who the real Panchen Lama is, but it sees Hu's visit as a "good opportunity to exert pressure on the Chinese" about the issue, said T. Kumar, Amnesty's advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific.