The government has outlined a series of measures to combat “Islamic extremism” following the murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich earlier this year.
The Extremism Taskforce, set up by David Cameron to tackle domestic terror threats, has published a series of proposals including a new Terror and Extremism Behaviour Order which will allow civil authorities to take action against “hate preachers who seek to radicalise others.”
Other measures could include filters to block radicalising Internet websites and new powers to deal with organisations which “raise funds for terror” or “spread extremist messages under the guise of charities.”
The task force, led by Home Secretary Theresa May, makes clear that the problem that must be dealt with is not simply violent extremism itself, but activities which radicalise others in a way which might lead them into extremist action.
Mr Cameron also said he wanted to see “an end to hate preaching in Britain.” “There are just too many people who have been radicalised in Islamic centres, who have been in contact with extremist preachers, who have accessed radicalising information on the internet and haven’t been sufficiently challenged. I want to make sure in our country that we do this effectively.”
The task force’s proposals include:
* Considering if there is a case for new types of order to ban groups which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech;
* Giving more support to places facing the biggest integration challenges, especially those communities where extremism is a particular problem;
* Working with internet companies to restrict access to terrorist material online which is hosted overseas;
* Improving the process for the public to report extremist content online;
* Ensuring prisoners who have demonstrated extremist views in prison receive intervention and support on release.
Mr Cameron said help could be given to Islamic centres and mosques which find themselves unable to rid themselves of radical members whose views they oppose.
“This summer we saw events that shocked the nation with the horrific killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich and murder of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham,” said Mr Cameron. “These tragedies were a wake-up call for Government and wider society to take action to confront extremism in all its forms, whether in our communities, schools, prisons, Islamic centres or universities.
“I have been absolutely clear that this is not something we should be afraid to address for fear of cultural sensitivities. We have already put in place some of the toughest terrorism prevention controls in the democratic world, but we must work harder to defeat the radical views which lead some people to embrace violence.
“The Task Force I set up has proposed a broad range of measures to counter the extremist narrative and I will make sure they are taken forward.”
Meanwhile, the government-funded Islamophobia-monitoring group Tell Mama has cautiously welcomed the proposals.
“We understand that any Government is under a duty to tackle extremism and to do so with an eye on balancing civil liberties whilst ensuring that specific communities are not labelled or prejudicially highlighted in the actions taken. We believe that this Government has tried to do so with this forward plan and set of recommendations and has been far more balanced and nuanced in its approach to tackling extremism than previous Governments….
“We are aware that any Government drive on tackling extremism, whether nuanced, sensitive or not, will unfortunately confirm in the minds of some people a strong association between all Muslims and extremism/terrorism…. Through our work within Faith Matters and TELL MAMA, we have seen this time and time again, that some people will make that automatic assumption irrespective of how sensitively a public document is put together.
“We also made clear to the Independent that any public discussion on matters of extremism lead to a rise in anti-Muslim discourse on-line. Once again, we have seen this on numerous occasions and sadly this confirms the automatic association of extremism and terrorism to Muslim communities….
“Does this mean that the Government should water down or block such a release, our response is no. Does this mean that a very forceful response should be taken by the Government to Muslims – clearly not, since it will merely re-enforce extremist narratives and raise tensions levels…. Part of the blame lies on those who promote such hate and prejudice and on individuals like Anjem Choudhary and groups like Al-Muhajiroun. They and far right groups are a menace to communities that we all need to tackle.”