UK Government announces plans to introduce new counter-extremism measures

On Monday 4th March, the UK government office, released details of its plans to broaden the definition of extremism, it said as part of a clampdown on individuals and organisations/groups which are deemed to be ‘undermining’ Britain’s institutions and values. The leveling-up secretary, Michael Gove, is to lead the project and is expected to announce a new unit which will be oversee a programme directed at officials across all government departments, providing training designed to enable them to better identify indicators of supposed extremism and to gather research and data relating to bodies/individuals who may fall foul of the new definition.  

New Extremism Definition

The intention will be to alter the existing definition, which describes extremism as the ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values’, which is now regarded as out of date. It is believed that the new definition will expand to include all actions that can be regarded as ‘undermining’ institutions and established values. Crucially, this will mean that any organisation or individual which/who is labeled by a minister as extremist, will automatically be excluded from government and council funding and from working with public bodies. A list of organisations, which are deemed to be on the wrong side of the new definition, is expected to mirror that detailed in the controversial Prevent Review Report published by William Shawcross in February 2023.

Human rights and community organisations attack tone and recommendations of Shawcross Prevent Review

The Shawcross Review was attacked by dozens of human rights organisations and community groups as being biased and showing ‘a pattern of behaviour which demonstrated the Government’s unwillingness to seriously interrogate the Prevent Duty’

Ilyas Nagdee, Amnesty International UK’s Racial Justice Director, was unequivocal in his condemnation of the review at the time. He said:

‘This review is riddled with biased thinking, errors, and plain anti-Muslim prejudice – frankly, the review has no legitimacy. William Shawcross’ history of bigoted comments on Muslims and Islam should have precluded his involvement in this ill-starred review in the first place. There’s mounting evidence that Prevent has specifically targeted Muslim communities and activists fighting for social justice and a host of crucial international issues – including topics like the climate crisis and the oppression of Palestinians. There is growing evidence that Prevent is having disastrous consequences for many people; eroding freedom of expression, clamping down on activism, creating a compliant generation and impacting on individual rights enshrined in law. A proper independent review of Prevent should have looked at the host of human rights violations that the programme has led to – but these have largely been passed over in silence’

Prevent is a ‘fundamentally misconceived and oppressive policy’..embedding discrimination against Muslims’

Liberty, Britain’s largest civil liberties organisation with over 15,000 members, issued a statement which read:

‘We all want to live safe and flourishing lives, but Prevent is a fundamentally misconceived and oppressive policy that stops us from doing so. It embeds discrimination against Muslims in public services, erodes carefully cultivated relationships, and fosters a culture of fear and mistrust… The publication of today’s long-delayed report – and the fact that its recommendations have already been accepted in full by the Government – shows that the Government is not committed to engaging meaningfully with Muslim communities but instead targeting them further. Muslim organisations are singled out for their criticisms of Prevent, despite the fact these concerns are shared widely among human rights organisations, as well as frontline workers’ 


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