Security minister: Far-right attack like in New Zealand is “perfectly possible” in UK

Security Minister Ben Wallace.

A far-right terrorist attack like that seen in New Zealand last Friday “could happen in the UK too”, security minister Ben Wallace says.

He told the Commons that Britain was seeing a “growing threat” from the far right.

Mr Wallace added the attack should be a “wake up call” for social media companies, who should be “ashamed” they allowed the massacres to be live-streamed and shared.

The terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch killed 50 people and injured 48.

The main gunman live-streamed the horrific attack on Facebook in a harrowing 17 minute video.

Even though the original video was taken down, it was immediately replicated and circulated on other social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube.

Mr Wallace said: “We’ve been clear that tech companies need to act more quickly to remove terrorist content and ultimately prevent new content being made available to users in the first place.”

He added that the UK government will be publishing a White Paper “immediately” which will set out clear expectations of how social media companies should keep users safe and the penalties for failing to comply.

Facebook confirmed that it had deleted more than 1.5m versions the Christchurch mosque attack video, while more than 1.2m were blocked as they were being uploaded.

YouTube said it had also removed thousands of videos and shut down hundreds of accounts created to glorify the mass murderer.

Mr Wallace mentioned that whilst Britain’s stricter firearm laws made it difficult for people to possess military-style guns, the country still faced a “growing threat” from the far right, which he described as “the pool that terrorists of the future will recruit from”.

He also said the government’s controversial Prevent strategy was apparently created to address all forms of terrorism, whatever the persuasion, and its funding would be kept under review and allocated “wherever the threat emerges”.

An independent review of Prevent will start in six months.

A chronology of mainstream opposition to Prevent

  • December 2014: Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer at the time, Sir Peter Fahy, stated that Prevent was hampered from the onset due to the Iraq war, and he argued that defining “extremism” was not the responsibility of the police.
  • March 2015: More than 240 leading Muslim organisations, scholars, imams, activists, teachers, doctors and journalists issued a joint statementagainst the CTS Bill, specifically the statutory standing of Prevent.
  • March 2015: The former Metropolitan chief superintendent Dal Babudescribed Prevent as a “toxic brand”.
  • July 2015: More than 280 academics and NUS membersissued a public statement against Prevent, stating that it would have a “chilling effect on free and open debate and political dissent,” adding that “it shifts attention away from grievances that drive individuals towards an ideology that legitimises political violence”. The public statement concluded by calling for Prevent’s total abolition.
  • September 2015: the then Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, criticised the then Home Secretary Theresa May for her policies under the Prevent strategy, as he believed they risked extending the “surveillance state” too far.
  • October 2015: The “Keep Mosques Independent” initiative, which is being led by the largest council of mosques from the north of the country, representing hundreds of thousands of British Muslims, issued a statement against state interference in madrassas under the Prevent strategy.
  • November 2015: Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, who was formerly a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee for countering extremism, said in a statement that Prevent is perceived by many ordinary Muslims as “toxic”.
  • December 2015: Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, which represents more than 70,000 Muslims, vowed to boycott Prevent, and also described it as a “racist policy” which targets Islam and Muslims.
  • December 2015: Imams in east London backed by non-Muslim teachers, community organisations and student unions, claimed that Prevent was spying on Muslim students, which has led to “increasing division and to a breakdown of trust in schools and colleges”.
  • January 2016: The former chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, Muhammad Afzal, described Prevent as “racist” and called for its boycott for indiscriminately targeting Muslims.
  • January 2016: The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Louise Richardson, argued that “extremists” should be allowed to speak at universities, and banning them from doing so would be a fundamental impingement of free speech.
  • September 2016: 140 psychologists issued an open letterstating that the ‘ERG22+’ science which underpins the Prevent strategy lacked evidence.
  • June 2017: United Nations rapporteurcriticised prevent as being “inherently flawed”.
  • November 2018: An open lettersigned by eight prominent civil liberties and human rights groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Liberty and others called for an independent review of Prevent, describing it as “discriminatory” against Muslims.

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