BRITAIN needs a new Hateful Extremism Taskforce to target hate preachers and groups spreading fake news to whip up tensions, a major report says today.
The Commission for Countering Extremism calls for a complete overhaul of the Government’s strategy for tackling far-right, Islamist and other forms of non-violent extremism.
It calls for a separate, national body — led by the Home Secretary — focused solely on tackling the spread of hatred.
It would work separately to the Government’s Prevent programme, which monitors extremists in danger of engaging in terrorism.
The Commission’s investigation found the current approach to dealing with incidents — such as far-right marches in Sunderland and the Islamist LGBT protests in Birmingham — is haphazard and lacks any form of cooperation.
The Commission, led by British Muslim campaigner Sara Khan, calls for a targeted taskforce to link police, local councils and communities.
The report also recommends a new definition of extremism, saying the current one focuses too much on British values and does not allow specialists to identify extremism quickly enough.
Ms Khan said: “I will put forward a clear, new description of hateful extremism — inciting hatred, the hateful targeting of individuals and making the moral case for violence.
“From inspiring terrorist attacks to groups engaging in persistent hostility, hateful extremism is a global phenomenon which is also impacting our country.”
Ex-head of counter terrorism and commission member Sir Mark Rowley said: “If we want tolerant integrated communities we have to stop being passive as we inadvertently tolerate the intolerant and the hateful.”
Why I back overhaul, by Sir Mark Rowley
It may be surprising to hear but when I retired from policing 18 months ago, having led National Counter Terrorism Policing for four years, my main reflection was not about terrorism and the growth of Islamist and far right threats.
My deepest concern, then and now, is the bubbling of extremism across our communities.
Why? We have a well-developed counter terrorism machinery, one of the best in the world, honed sadly over fifty years of various types of domestic threat.
In my four years in charge, our teams prevented 27 attacks and our response the events of 2017 was so effective that public confidence in the police actually grew.
‘RECRUITING GROUND FOR TERRORISTS’
My deep concern about extremism arose because not only did I see how extremists in local communities and online radicalised others and provided a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists, but I also saw that our national counter extremism machinery was weak, poorly coordinated and behind the curve.
Indeed, I made my retiring speech in the Colin Cramphorn Memorial lecture on this very subject.
Since the 7/7 attacks there has been intermittent political intent to address this; but progress has been lacklustre.
Whilst today the Islamist terror threat remains the largest globally and in the UK, other threats such as the right wing are growing rapidly – and they all draw upon extremist foundations.
Today there is a fresh opportunity to get on top of this problem as the Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan, publishes her first report, and recommends a new agenda to combat ‘hateful extremism’.
More than half of those she surveyed have seen extremism and recognise that the response is weak.
The Commision is right to focus on those hateful supremacist behaviours that cause real harm to communities rather than a wider definition that risks becoming a ‘thought police’.
In my experience, every terrorist prosecution sees behind it a whole radicalising history of the individual – and Sara Khan’s report identifies further harms such as:
- Religious extremism keeping women out of education and employment.
- The hatred generated by supremacists such as Islamists and right-wing extremists that has driven rises in hate crime.
- The active undermining of our democratic institutions such as the police and justice system by those opposed to our current way of life.
The solution she rightly identifies is for a whole society approach with a joined up muscular cross-government drive at the centre. One example illustrates the problem.
Four years ago, I first raised with the Department of Education how Islamists were taking their children out of mainstream schools to indoctrinate them in ‘home education’. As this report illustrates the problem remains.
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If we want tolerant integrated communities we have to stop being passive as we inadvertently tolerate the intolerant and the hateful. As Sara describes we now need;
- A well-resourced Counter Extremism Commission based in statute to lead the way in tracking how extremism is operating and finding the best interventions whilst having the power to report annually on progress;
- A Minister-led determined cross-Whitehall approach;
- The resources for local authorities and charities to tackle this; and
- Political and civic leadership that avoids giving cover to hateful extremists through, for example, apparent endorsement by sharing a platform without robust challenge.
I look forward to the Government making this a real priority in the next spending round. Hateful extremism is a national problem. It requires a national response.
- Sir Mark Rowley is the former Met Assistant Commissioner and Chief of Counter Terrorism Policing.