Quilliam welcomes the new proposals outlined by the UK government’s Taskforce on Countering Extremism and believes it is a positive step that focuses on the right areas.
In particular, we welcome the intent to further imbed the Channel programme which has been instrumental in forging important relationships between statutory bodies and key stakeholders that, in turn, have proven useful in identifying and supporting vulnerable young people.
Quilliam Chairman, Maajid Nawaz, was invited to address the Taskforce on 27 June 2013 and gave advice on countering extremism before it becomes violent. He recommended challenging the jihadist brand and ideology by a combination of adhering to and promoting our political values, better political communication and better political positioning. Quilliam commends the government for following our advice and for making positive progress to tackle extremism.
Recognition of the fact that the prison environment can play a key role in radicalising vulnerable individuals is a vital step forward, and a topic on which Quilliam published a report in 2010. We hope more mentoring can be put in place for those in prison and those seeking to re-integrate into communities upon their release. We hope that counter-radicalisation and rehabilitation will continue to be a key component of the criminal justice system. Likewise, Quilliam welcomes the increased governmental awareness of the potential for radicalisation at universities, and the need for educational institutions to tackle hate-preachers on campus.
Strengthening the powers of the Charity Commission is a good move to aid tackling those organisations that abuse their charitable status in order preach hatred. The reasons for the major integration challenges facing certain parts of the country also need to be looked at in greater detail, and we need to have a public conversation around modern British identity.
While Quilliam supports the Taskforce’s proposals to improve the process by which members of the public are able to report online extremist content, we have serious reservations about the plans to restrict access to extremist content online. We believe the emphasis should always be on cutting the demand rather than restricting the supply, and the presence of extremists online offers an opportunity to engage and monitor conversational trends and tactics which, in turn, inform counter-extremism efforts.
The internet itself is not a problem, but rather a medium used to spread extremist narratives; it is these narratives that should be challenged. Quilliam stands ready to advise concerned departments on how this may be done, and is already working with Google to find ways in which counter-extremism narratives across the political spectrum can be promoted online.
Quilliam’s Head of Research, Ghaffar Hussain, says “policing or censoring the internet is notoriously difficult, often ineffective and potentially counter-productive. Such negative measures are usually easily circumnavigated; they risk pushing extremists into the darker corners of the web where engagement and monitoring are much more difficult.”
Quilliam Chairman Maajid Nawaz reiterates the remarks he made to the Taskforce at 10 Downing Street, “we must be careful that our own actions do not end up simply reinforcing the jihadist brand and narrative. The solution lies not in tougher laws or increased military response, but in challenging the jihadist brand by a combination of adhering to and promoting our political values, better political communication and better political positioning. Democracy must defeat the jihadist brand by killing it softly, not by mimicking it. This is no more true than on the internet.”