“Extremism” is an unhelpful word that should be avoided in everyday political debates, a new poll suggests.
The Evangelical Alliance, which was part of the coalition that commissioned the poll, said “extremism does not work as a litmus test for judging peaceful beliefs”.
The research uncovered that people are divided over which views should be deemed “extreme”.
Dr David Landrum, Director of Advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said the results show “the danger of focusing the extremism debate on beliefs we may find uncomfortable or disagree with, rather than on actions that threaten lives”.
The Government has repeatedly responded to acts of terrorism by pledging to tackle what it calls “extremism”, prompting concern from Christian and civil liberty groups.
But ministers have so far struggled to clearly define non-violent extremism, and Landrum said an upcoming commission on the issue was unlikely to solve such problems.
In the survey, 41 per cent of people believed it was “extreme” to think marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
Views on Brexit, diesel cars and animal rights were also considered extreme by many in the ComRes survey of 2,004 people. On Brexit, 36 per cent thought it was extreme to believe the UK should leave the EU, while 30 per cent thought it was extreme to believe the UK should remain.
The polling was commissioned by the Evangelical Alliance in conjunction with ADF International, Affinity, Care, Christian Concern, Christian Medical Fellowship and the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship.
Defend Free Speech
The Christian Institute has spoken out on the Government’s extremism plans, warning that a vague definition is likely to catch Christians.
While supporting efforts to combat terrorism, the Institute has cautioned that leaders must not spread the net so widely that every person with strong beliefs is put on the same level as an Islamist seeking violent jihad.
The Institute is working against the vague extremism plans as part of the Defend Free Speech campaign.
Other groups in the campaign are the National Secular Society, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, English Pen, Big Brother Watch, the Manifesto Club, Index on Censorship and The Freedom Association.
It also includes politicians from both ends of the political spectrum.