According to a report in The Guardian David Cameron will press ahead with his controversial counter-extremism strategy which includes a possible ban on Hizb ut Tahrir as well as blacklisting “extremists” from appearing on the airwaves and speaking at universities.
The Prime Minister told the BBC’s Today programme on Monday it was time to recognise that non-violent extremists could provide a “gateway” to terrorism and said it was time public bodies and civil society refused to engage with “anyone whose views condone the Islamist extremist narrative”.
“We have to deal with this appalling radical narrative that’s taking over the minds of young people in our country,” he said, drawing comparisons to the “battle against communism during the cold war”.
The prime minister hinted that the first non-violent group to be banned could be Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The agreed definition of extremism, which the Home Office will use
to decide who to blacklist, is this:
“The vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist.”
The new counter-extremism strategy marks a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to extremism, which in the past has only focused on violent extremists, whether Islamist, far right or involved in animal rights.
A drive against non-violent extremists means moving against individuals and groups based on their ideas and not on their actions.
New counter-terrorism legislation to ban extremist groups that currently fall short of existing terrorist proscription orders, extremist disruption orders and orders to close down premises used to host extremist meetings have already been signalled in the Queen’s speech.
But the home secretary’s proposals will go further to include new powers to require television programmes to be vetted for extremist content before they are broadcast and for ministerial directions to universities and colleges not to give extremist speakers a platform.
The other main elements of the counter-extremism strategy include:
• An independent investigation into the application of sharia law in England and Wales.
• A positive campaign to promote British values.
• A national database of school governors and a review of unregulated supplementary schools to protect them against extremism.
• Tougher police response to “honour crimes” and new extremism officers in prison.
• Full review of citizenship laws to ensure new citizens respect British values.
• New incentives and penalties for helping people to learn English and a sharp reduction in the funding for translation services.
Muslim community reaction
Responding to the proposals Claystone – a think tank which aims to foster social cohesion in relation to Muslims in Britain – urged a more holistic approach to counter terrorism.
“The killing of more than 30 Britons in Tunisia is a chilling reminder of the threat posed by terrorists, both here in the United Kingdom and abroad. Our response must be thoughtful but forthright. The scourge of terrorism has continued to blight our communities for over a decade despite an extensive introduction of a raft of counter-terrorism measures. We must pause and reflect.
“A report on radicalisation and extremism, commissioned by Claystone, authored by Professor Arun Kundnani, has highlighted the on-going difficulty in challenging terrorism through the sole prism of religious ideology.
“Recognising that the route to terrorism is complex and multi-factorial affords us a more comprehensive approach to tackling the problem by seeking to address those factors. This, we believe, allows us to better protect our country from this terrible crime and in doing so reduce the risk we all face from terrorist attacks.
“We urge the Prime Minister to recognise the urgent need for a grounded evidence base upon which to shape robust counter-terror proposals and to recognise the complex interplay of socio-religious factors that underpin these terrorist acts.”
Meanwhile, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said continuing calls by Tory leaders to adopt a more hardline approach towards tackling extremism ignore the roots of the problem and risk “otherising” Muslims who are also its victims.
IHRC said: “These measures are counter-productive in that they seek to both prevent discussion of legitimate topics and the adoption of positions that run counter to government foreign policy such as for example the desirability of Islamic governance. It has led to Muslims shutting-up shop and being scared away from discussing important issues leaving an information vacuum that the likes of ISIL can readily exploit.
“Both leaders also fail to address Saudi Arabia’s contribution to ISIL-inspired extremism through the regime’s continued promotion of sectarianism and the narrow, exclusivist reading of Islam represented by Wahhabism. Instead of standing up to Riyadh and demanding action Britain and the West in general prefer to cosy up to a regime which they see as a loyal servant in the region.”
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh added: “To date the government’s approach to tackling terrorism has been based on prejudice and self-interest and that’s why it has been an abject failure. Any response must be properly targeted to attack the source of the problem, not the rights of the very people that are key to finding a solution and who are its double-edged victims.”