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Sunday, April 14, 2024

UK government introduces new ‘Extremism’ definition to safeguard democracy and combat rising hate crimes

The UK government has unveiled today a new definition of extremism- intended to prevent government parties and officials from inadvertently funding or providing a platform to dangerous extremist groups.

The definition has several key underlying principles, stemming from the following basic outline: “Extremism is the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance”.

The definition goes on to explain three key points, that it should:

  1. Negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others
  2. Undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights
  3. Intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in points one or two.

The new definition comes in response to increasing tensions generated by the crises in Gaza, and the increased threat of extremism.

Although not legally binding, it will apply to the operations of the government – there is intended to be a list of groups considered extremist, and these will be blocked from government funding and meetings with officials.

Since the start of the crises, hate crime in the UK has increased by an alarming amount –  Tell MAMA, a national project which supports victims of anti – Muslim hate has recorded a 335% increase in cases in the last four months alone.

Responding to this situation, the new definition is designed to support Prime Minister’s commitment to stamp out extremism and keep the nation safe.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities. Image: Wikipedia

Commenting on the announcement, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities said: “Our democracy and our values of inclusivity and tolerance are under challenge from extremists. In order to protect our democratic values, it is important both to reinforce what we have in common and to be clear and precise in identifying the dangers posed by extremism.”

Although many are applauding the move, others say it could affect the right to free speech, and civil liberties. There are also fears that it could unfairly affect the Muslim community.

The Muslim Council of Britain raised their concerns: “The government’s latest ill-conceived proposals on extremism are undemocratic, divisive, and potentially illegal. These proposals may involve defining established Muslim organisations as extremist.”

Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. Image: Wikipedia

They raise concerns about on what grounds groups will be labelled extremist, legal channels to challenge the determinations, and whether all faiths or those in political parties will be treated equally, alongside Muslim organisations.

Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain stated: “Combatting extremism demands leadership. It requires leaders to unite communities rather than sow discord. This is why we endorse the call from the Archbishop of Canterbury and York to reconsider its approach and instead engage in a comprehensive dialogue with all those who will be affected.”

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