The new Extremism Commissioner Sara Khan has said she’s been “engaging widely” in the first few months of her three-day-a-week £140K a year job.
In a blog post Khan, whose appointment to the government body was opposed by several Muslim organisations, said she’s met more than 100 civil society activists, public sector and police leaders, faith groups and extremism experts.
However, 5Pillars understands that none of the major British Muslim institutions have met with her. Over the years Khan’s support for the the government’s Prevent counter terrorism strategy, as well as her poor relationship with Muslim community stakeholders, has poisoned her relations with the Muslim grassroots.
Yet in her blog Khan wrote: “Everywhere I have been, local communities are increasingly concerned about the threat and impact of all forms of extremism. They are seeing hateful individuals pushing vile propaganda in a bid to divide communities. Extremists seek to spread fear and incite violence, and communities want it to stop.
“These last few weeks have been eye-opening and there are common emerging themes. Firstly, I can say with confidence and pride that civil society in our country is alive and well. I have been struck by the commitment of grassroots activists, local councils and the police to push back against hateful narratives with positive messages of respect and community spirit. I saw a real desire to celebrate pride in our towns and cities as an antidote to hate.
Khan added that supporting those who seek to build resilience to extremism and directly challenge it is vital.
“I know from my own experience that confronting extremism is a lonely and risky calling. When extremists, and their sympathisers, are exposed, they throw everything they have at you. I have spoken to organisations and individuals who received shocking abuse on and offline simply for delivering vital services, defending pluralistic values and for calling out hatred. I know this all too well and it is not surprising that very few are prepared to directly challenge extremists and their propaganda.
“These brave counter-extremists need more people willing to stand with them. Strength does come in numbers and the development of a strong counter-extremism network is clearly overdue. Those on the frontline – whether as councils, activists or faith groups – all need more support, and national leadership.
“Finally, we need to stop shying away from the difficult conversations about extremism. There is a striking absence of a common language when it comes to these issues. It makes these critically important conversations harder, and acts as an obstacle in building a shared understanding of extremism and in developing a positive, whole-society response.”
Khan said the major next step for the Commission for Countering Extremism would be to publish a comprehensive study and make recommendations to the Home Secretary on the long-term structure of the CCE.