A new plan to deal with Islamic extremism will “tackle head-on” those who are “misrepresenting and hijacking the faith”, a senior Home Office minister has said.
Prime minister David Cameron and home secretary Theresa May unveiled the government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy on Monday (19) aimed at countering jihadist ideology and stopping young Britons travelling to Syria and joining terror groups.
Key proposals in the plan include allowing parents to have passports removed from 16 and 17-year-olds, and barring those with terrorism or extremist convictions from working with children and vulnerable people.
The new planned measures will also include a review of Britain’s citizenship rules with a stronger focus on the “good character” consideration to filter out extremists from those applying to be citizens.
“The fight against Islamist extremism is one of the great struggles of our generation,” Cameron said on Monday (19), a day after he pledged £5 million to root out the “poison” of extremists by supporting local initiatives, campaigns and charitable organisations in a so-called “national coalition” against radicalisation.
Lord Tariq Ahmad, the minister for countering extremism, told Eastern Eye the “primary component” of the strategy was to build partnerships with faith communities.
“The prime minister, home secretary and myself, we’ve been very particular in ensuring that there is a challenge to those who are hijacking Islam, misrepresenting it and putting forward an extremist narrative – we need to tackle that head on.
“We’re working within the Muslim community to ensure the correct interpretation of the true essence of the strategy is also communicated. We have to deal with this extremist narrative and the best way to do that is build a very broad partnership with all groups.”
Police say they have foiled several jihadist attacks in Britain, while hundreds of Britons are believed to have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the ISIS terror group, raising concerns that not enough is being done to counter extremism.
Under the wide-ranging proposals, groups deemed extremist by promoting hatred will be banned; places where radicals thrive including mosques could be closed, and the regulator Ofcom will get tougher powers to address TV and radio channels airing extremist material.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the UK’s largest umbrella Islamic organisation, said that while terrorism was a real threat, the government’s strategy was based on poor analysis and risked alienating those whose support it needed.
“Whether it is in mosques, education or charities, the strategy will reinforce perceptions that all aspects of Muslim life must undergo a ‘compliance’ test to prove our loyalty to this country,” said Shuja Shafi, the MCB’s secretary general.
Defending the measures, Lord Ahmad said it would not infringe on the freedoms of Muslims: “This isn’t against any conservative religious ideology, this is about ensuring quite the opposite to protect the freedom of religions and the freedom of religious expression one has.”
He added: “There are the instant reactions by people who haven’t even read the strategy. Open the front cover, read what the prime minister and home secretary said, and you might just find your answer right there.”