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On 13th May, the re-elected Tory Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the Queen’s Speech will include an intention to enact a new counter-terrorism (CT)  bill. According to media reports,  features will include:

  • plans for extremism disruption orders “designed to restrict those trying to radicalise young people”.
  • giving  the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.
  • a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print.
  • plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred
  • new powers to close premises including mosques where extremists seek to influence others, and
  • “powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism will also be strengthened” [Source: The Guardian, 13th May 2015].

Additionally, Government has announced its intention to withdraw from the European Court of Human Rights.

Muslim civil society and political voices have responded with alarm at these measures.

The Muslim Council of Britain: …Any initiative to keep our country safe is welcomed. The scourge of terrorism affects us all. We all must challenge acts of terrorism and ideas and the environment in which it thrives. The Muslim Council of Britain, and indeed the Muslim community as a whole, has consistently and vocally challenged and denounced acts of terrorism and those who incite, encourage or support acts of terrorism, and will continue to do so in the best interests of our country…We call on our government to tread carefully and not to rush into bringing in yet more legislation without proper debate, engaging all stakeholders, building consensus and unity between communities. That, in our view, is in the interest of our national security and in keeping with our fine traditions. click here for full statement, 13th May 2015.

MEND: … in her defence of the proposals on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, the Home Secretary failed the elementary test: defining ‘extremism’.  This is not entirely surprising given that the policy looks to have been cooked up before the facts have been assembled. In her speech, the Home Secretary alluded to the creation of an Extremism Analysis Unit in the Home Office in order to develop “better evidence base for dealing with extremists and extremist organisations”.  It would seem injudicious to propose policies when you can’t define the object of the policy, ‘extremism’, or indeed have an evidence base to inform policy development itself. click here for full statement, 14th May 2015.

Baroness Warsi:  As reported in The Independent:  Baroness Warsi said while it was still far from clear what the Government’s definition of non-violent extremism was, there were worrying signs that the strategy was being seen as an attack on the Muslim community itself…“The test will be whether this is a genuine attempt to deal with extremism in all its forms, as opposed to the current perception that it is a Cold War against British Muslims“. click here, 14th May.

 

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