Terrorism experts caution Govt against expanding ‘extremism’ definition

Leading national security figures have warned the UK Government not to expand its definition of extremism.

Former head of Counter Terrorism Policing Neil Basu, former Chief of General Staff Lord Dannatt and three previous Home Secretaries signed a letter calling for a “shared understanding of extremism and a strategy to prevent it that can stand the test of time, no matter which party wins an election”.

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove is expected to set out plans to prevent groups deemed to be “extremist” for ‘undermining British Values’ from accessing venues or public funding.

Loose definition

Former Home Secretary Priti Patel, who signed the letter, told The Guardian: “It is really important that we do not malign the wrong people through the wrong definitions.

“We haven’t seen anything yet from the government, but it is easy, as we have seen historically, to hide behind labels or definitions which sometimes end up being counterproductive.”

The Government’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Jonathan Hall KC said the proposed definition is “very loose” and the “distinction from the way we deal with terrorism couldn’t be clearer”.

He stated: “The proposed policy is about ideology. But a lot of respected scholars and thinkers would say you go after action, because ultimately what matters is if someone acts violently or encourages violence”.

All too often, new measures against terrorism or extremism end up endangering rather than protecting religious freedom.

Religious freedom

Last week, the Institute’s Deputy Director Ciarán Kelly warned that attempts to tackle terrorism or extremism “must never pave the way to banning opinions which are deemed unpopular or old-fashioned”.

He said: “All too often, new measures against terrorism or extremism end up endangering rather than protecting religious freedom. We saw this only too well when Ofsted inspectors investigating ‘British Values’ threatened to close Jewish schools if they didn’t teach children about same-sex marriage.

“This may not have been intended, but sadly it was the result. No innocent person, Christian or otherwise, should be endangered by vague legislation which threatens our historic liberties of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”

The little book of non-violent extremists (updated)

The little book of non-violent extremists (updated)

This little booklet makes the big point that some non-violent ‘extremists’ turn out to be heroic people of global significance. The Government’s Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove MP, has published a new definition of extremism. At its lowest threshold, it includes promoting an ‘intolerant’ ideology that aims to “negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”. Our little list of heroes could easily have been accused of breaching this threshold if it was in place in their day.

Also see:

‘Knee-jerk reaction to extremism threatens free speech’, says Govt’s top terror advisor

CI: ‘New extremism definition could pose threat to religious freedom’

Chaplain reported to anti-terror unit for challenging LGBT ideology will appeal case

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