Government efforts to tackle extremist groups 'inadequate and unfocused', independent commissioner says
The Government's efforts to tackle extremism are "inadequate and unfocused", an independent commissioner has said.
Ministers must undertake an urgent overhaul of its extremism strategy in a bid to tackle hate preachers and far-right activists, according to a new report by the Independent Commission for Countering Extremism.
The group's investigation found extremist organisations were exploiting tensions in towns and cities to recruit members as they called for social media companies to crackdown on those using their platforms to spread hatred.
Pointing to far-right demonstrations in Sunderland and protests over LGBT schools lessons in Birmingham, the report recommended a new classification of "hateful extremism" to help co-ordinate the response to extremist activity.
Commissioner Sara Khan said the new definition should form the basis for a "reboot" of the Government's counter extremism strategy.
"I will put forward a clear, new description of hateful extremism - inciting hatred, the hateful targeting of individuals and making the moral case for violence," she said.
"From inspiring terrorist attacks to groups engaging in persistent hostility, hateful extremism is a global phenomenon which is also impacting our country."
The report also called for a new independent taskforce to be chaired by the Home Secretary to bring together experts from inside and outside the Government to "oversee the response" to extremist activity.
It came after the group's investigation concluded the Government's current strategy was "broad" and "unfocused" with counter extremism law being applied inconsistently.
"The government must urgently overhaul its approach to challenging extremism, starting with a new definition of hateful extremism, a new government strategy and a Home Secretary-led taskforce," Ms Khan said.
"Our country's response to terrorism is robust. This is not the case for hateful extremism. Yet if we are to be successful in reducing the extremist threat in our society, we need to focus our efforts on challenging hateful extremism.
"We are not doing enough to protect victims. We underestimate the impact of those that make the moral case for violence."
She added: "We can, and must, do more to address the spread of hateful extremism on our streets and online."
Meanwhile, Sunder Katwala, Director of independent think tank British Future, said the new strategy would help tackle extremism without impacting on free speech.
"Our society can often feel more divided than any of us would like, with a coming General Election likely to raise the temperature yet further," he said.
"The commission sets out a framework for building consensus on how to define, isolate and take down hateful extremism – without limiting free speech or being derailed by the polarised political climate.
"People can express opposing views strongly – but there should be no place for hatred in Britain."
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.