Quilliam Political Liaison Officer Jonathan Russell tries to find a middle ground in approaches to counter extremism in a comment piece written for the Sunday Express.
Some people in the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, for instance, believe that non-violent extremists are not worth challenging and that only violent terrorists deserve our attention.
Non-violent extremists have even been brought in to help tackle jihadists. If this is still the position of senior figures in Government departments, and it seems to be, we need to talk about it more.
David Cameron made his opinion on this issue clear in 2011 when he spoke in Munich linking violent and non-violent extremists but clearly that was not enough to end the discussion.
Last week he had to intervene to stop the embarrassing rift between his Home Secretary and Education Secretary. He should not stop there. Counter-extremism is important enough to merit not just cohesion but also consistency and clarity.
This Government’s policy, called Prevent, is not working and the PM needs to appoint a tsar to oversee and coordinate policy between departments. Extremism is a problem that manifests itself in every bit of society, whether in schools, universities, communities or prisons.
Counter-extremism should be delivered in all these sectors but a lack of collaboration has led to confusion. So how should this policy look? Well it must tackle extremism in all its forms, not just the violent one.
The views of many non-violent extremists, with their anti-gay slurs and sexism for example, are disgusting. The inability to condemn such barbaric punishments as stoning for adulterers, amputations for thieves, or hangings for homosexuals must be tackled in the same way racism is challenged head on.
Even if people with these views do not actually commit an offence such as glorifying terrorism, going to fight alongside Al Qaeda in Syria or blowing up a bus, they do create the mood music to which suicide bombers dance.
Secondly, a middle ground must be found and popularised. On the Left too many apologists for extremism are unwilling to challenge totalitarianism when it is pitched in religious terms for fear of being called racist or anti-Muslim but the tendency to blame the problem on Western foreign policy is short-sighted.
It is an approach exploited by extremists and will have long-term negative consequences. Many on the Right view the problem as being entirely to do with Islam and see solutions in censure of the religion and its followers. Yet this further entrenches the Islamist narrative that Muslims are unwelcome in Britain.
The introduction of illiberal counter-terrorism legislation will have the same effect. Both ends of the spectrum are unhelpful. Likewise our complicity in some methods of fighting extremism, such as Guantanamo Bay, risks calling Britain’s moral judgment into question.
Such illiberal methods also conform to the Islamist narrative of a “war on Islam”, which is then used to further extremist recruitment. It does more harm than good in countering extremism. In a sense both Theresa May and Michael Gove are right.
The Home Secretary has been strong on tackling the symptoms of extremism and has made good progress in improving the compatibility of counter-terrorism legislation with human rights, which is vital.
The Education Secretary on the other hand has always been strong on challenging the causes of extremism and his appreciation of the need to challenge non-violent extremism is spot on. The Birmingham schools investigations are ongoing and we expect to hear from Ofsted and the Department for Education shortly.
Blaming Gove or May for any extremism uncovered would be unhelpful. Instead it is time to appreciate that our approach to extremism of all kinds must be consistent, particularly in schools where vulnerable children might not be ready to make their own judgments on religious, social or political issues.
Of course the debate over the role that religion should play in education is nothing new.
To the vast majority of parents and society at large, however, there is nothing controversial about saying children should not be exposed to homophobic, anti- Semitic or religiously intolerant views and that children of different genders should be able to mix freely.
Now allegations have been made that in certain schools the rights of some young people to shape their view of the world in a free and open way have been compromised. If so this is a failure of the state which has potentially serious consequences for the health of our society.
The authorities have had some success in countering terrorism and reacting to some forms of extremism but a more coherent policy means more sustainable results.
The education sector is one key area in this and the Government has a responsibility to spend our taxes wisely to protect all children. Reacting to the allegations in Birmingham is necessary but a review of the pre-emptive steps that can be taken in all schools and universities is also vital.
It is not as easy as just blaming Islam when so often Islamic extremism is just a corrupt interpretation of the religion. We must focus on each instance and take action without fear or prejudice.
Those in power need to agree to work in collaboration to develop a consistent approach to countering this dangerous problem.
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