19 October 2015
The new counter-extremism strategy takes a progressive step towards effectively challenging all extremism. Quilliam welcomes an approach that tackles extremism of all kinds, violent and non-violent, Islamist and anti-Muslim, with proportionate civil society-led measures.
By focusing on extremist ideologies and narratives, and pledging to engage and empower communities to respond, the Prime Minister has identified the root cause of radicalisation and taken active moves to build the right mechanism to find a solution.
It is critically important to challenge extremist arguments, expose the underlying weakness of extremist organisations and their ideologies, promote positive alternatives rooted in human rights and Britain’s values, and support those vulnerable to radicalisation with safeguarding and critical thinking skills, all of which Quilliam has long advocated and this government now pledges to do.
A community engagement model is also to be supported to ensure that, rather than the government tackling extremist ideas and propaganda, a civil society coalition, including British Muslims and others, has the requisite resources and support to do so.
Quilliam is also in favour of new safeguarding proposals to prevent radicalisation in educational settings and entryism within British institutions including prisons, universities, and local authorities. An online approach that prioritises positive measures like training, network-building, awareness and digital literacy skills, over negative measures like censorship and blocking is to be commended, though we question the parallels made between child sexual exploitation content and extremist content.
Despite our active involvement in the Community Engagement Forum and our consultative role on government counter-extremism strategy, we maintain our vocal reservations about the banning of extremist organisations, the disruption of extremist individuals and the restriction of access to premises used for extremism. In particular, the proposals for the media and university campuses include steps that would erode freedoms.
While we welcome the proposed safeguards for these measures, including judicial scrutiny and commitment to maintaining civil liberties, we feel that lowering the threshold for criminalisation from existing terrorism standards down to a new extremism standard is illegal and illiberal as well as likely ineffective and counter-productive.
Quilliam Managing Director Haras Rafiq says,
“Both online and offline, positive measures like counter-narratives and community empowerment are always more likely to be effective than negative measures like banning and blocking, without many of the unintended negative consequences. We have called for a counter-extremism strategy for years, and with the rise of Islamist movements around the world, Britain can now set about building a civil society coalition to keep our country safe, cohesive, and free from the extremism that plagues our societies.
Perception of this strategy is important to its effective implementation. Engaging communities will not only build a stronger coalition to deliver counter-narratives and defeat extremism, it will also improve trust between British Muslims and the authorities, as well as strengthen integration in the long-term. It is of vital importance that we uphold the very human rights we are trying to protect from extremists.”