Counter-extremism strategy could 'drive a wedge' between communities - MPs and peers
MPs and peers have warned the Government its counter-extremism strategy risks “driving wedges between communities”.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights said the assumption of a link between conservative religious values and support for violent jihadism was “by no means proven”.
Ministers should focus on trying to “tackle extremism that leads to violence, not suppress views with which the Government disagrees”, the committee said.
Today’s report argued that the Government should only bring forward new legislation on counter-extremism “if it can demonstrate a significant gap” in existing powers.
Last year, the Prime Minister promised a new Counter-Extremism Bill, but the JCHR said today that progress “appears to have stalled or even gone backwards” since then.
They warned that the plans could result in “unjustifiable discrimination or unjustifiable interference with freedom of religion or expression”.
“Would applying counter-extremism measures to specifically Islamic religious conservatism in the cause of tackling violence be acceptable discrimination or would it give rise to justified grievance?” asked committee chair Harriet Harman.
“The most precious asset in the fight against terrorism is the relationship between the authorities and the Muslim communities of this country. We must guard against any undermining of the relationship between the authorities and Muslim communities, which would make the fight against terrorism even harder.”
The JCHR also said the Prevent strategy should be reviewed and said new requirements on universities to prevent the expression of extremist views were “likely to cause uncertainty” as they clash with the historic importance of free speech on campuses.