A diverse coalition of civil society groups and leading figures have come together to highlight serious concerns about the government’s proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill.
The joint statement by a multi-faith alliance of 26 organisations and individuals says “we are extremely concerned that the proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will feed the very commodity that the terrorists thrive on: fear.”
The signatories include Liberty, Index on Censorship, Runnymede Trust, Liberal Judaism and the Muslim Council of Britain along with individuals including former Telegraph journalist Peter Oborne and Guardian columnist Owen Jones, former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and ex policing lead for the Prevent programme, Sir Peter Fahy, and former Chief Constable Dalwardin Babu OBE.
Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the the Muslim Council of Britain, which co-ordinated the coalition, said: “The fact that such a diverse range of groups have come together should tell us that there are widespread concerns about the proposals in the government’s counter extremism Bill. The terrorists would like nothing better than provoking ill-thought through policies that undermine all our freedoms.”
We are a cross section of British society who believe in the necessity of keeping our nation safe and secure.
To defeat the scourge of terrorism we need a strategy underpinned by a soaring confidence in our values and the society we seek to build together. As such, we are gravely concerned that the proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will feed the very commodity that the terrorists thrive on: fear. We must instead put forward proposals that show those who seek to undermine us that we value our freedom more than they cherish fear.
Terrorism in all its forms is already prohibited by the criminal law, as is speech that incites violence or promotes hatred. This Bill would provide the Government with the power to exclude those they disagree with from many parts of the public space. These proposals will serve to alienate communities and undermine free speech, but there is scant evidence that they will tackle the terrorism we all want to confront.
The fact that the Government is struggling to define the ‘extremism’ it wants to ban should be a clear indication that this legislation has no place in a liberal democracy.
As a nation, we not only tolerate diversity but celebrate it. And when we differ, our values of liberty and respect underpin how we respond: through discussion and disagreement, not prohibition and exclusion.
When ideas are not violent or do not incite violence we do not ban or censor them, however insulting they might be to our norms as a society.
We believe that our universal values, which have developed through generations, can withstand the challenges we face today.
Let us create open spaces for debate and let it be through freedom that we defeat those who wish to divide us. We call for an evidence-based counter-terrorism strategy that proudly promotes our values, and offers a strong and principled alternative to the narrative of intolerance and fear.
The Muslim Council of Britain
Rights Watch (UK)
Index on Censorship
The Jewish Council for Racial Equality
National Secular Society
Operation Black Vote
Stand up to Racism
British Institute of Human Rights
Big Brother Watch
Peter Oborne, Journalist
Owen Jones, Journalist
Sir Peter Fahy, former Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and former National Policing Lead for Prevent
Dalwardin Babu OBE, Former Chief Superintendent
Bishop Dr Eric Brown, Pentecostal President, Churches Together in England.
The Revd, the Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, Former President of the Methodist Conference
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Robin Richardson, Director, Insted Consultancy
Malia Bouattia, President-Elect, National Union of Students
Professor Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights, London School of Economics
Michael Mumisa, Cambridge Special Livingstone Scholar, University of Cambridge
Professor Eric Herring, Professor of World Politics, Bristol University
Kirsty Brimelow QC, Doughty Street Chambers