Government brings forward anti-extremism bill

Posted On: 
13th May 2015

New measures to deal with “poisonous” Islamic extremism announced by David Cameron have come under scrutiny from a prominent civil liberties group.

A bill in the Conservatives’ Queen’s Speech will include powers to ban extremist organisations - even if they do not break the law - and introduce new ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ to stem the influence of radical preachers.

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The proposals, which were previously vetoed by the Liberal Democrats while in coalition with the Tories, have come under fire from the counter extremism think tank Quilliam.

Jonathan Russell, political liaison officer at Quilliam, told PoliticsHome the measures fail to “tackle radicalisation as a process”, and sends a “dangerous” message to Muslim communities which may feel targeted by the government’s stance on extremism.

Mr Russell said: “If on day one of a government it’s about repealing human rights and day two curtailing human rights it sends a dangerous message to Muslim communities who feel they are being targeted by this.”

Mr Russell also said the legislation prompts concerns around a breach in civil liberties, including the right to free speech, and may criminalise activities which would not lead to action.

As the government is yet to confirm its definition of extremism in its proposals, Mr Russell says he hopes it consists of acts which are fundamentally opposed to “universally enshrined human rights”.

Instead, Quilliam advocate the government attribute more resource to “frontline” workers in schools, universities and prisons as part of their counter extremism strategy.

LIB DEM REACTION

Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron was also heavily critical of the proposals. He told Radio 4's World at One:

"This is as authoritarian and as Orwellian as, if you like, New Labour’s ID card system which we got rid of five years ago.

"We have laws in this land to deal with extremism and threats to the security of people in this country. The issue is not that we don't have enough law - it's very often we don't give the resources that we need to our security services," he added.

In the new measures unveiled today, authorities will be able to close down premises being used by extremists, Ofcom will have new powers to pressurise broadcasters which show extremist content, and the Charity Commission will be mandated to “root out charities who misappropriate funds”.

David Cameron said: "For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.

"It's often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that's helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. This Government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”