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June 19, 2020

UK extremism strategy ‘needs complete and urgent overhaul’

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P
Pa
June 19, 2020

LONDON: Ministers must “urgently commit” to tackling extremism as perpetrators seek to “exploit” the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests, a government adviser has said.

Sara Khan, who leads the Commission for Countering Extremism, reiterated calls for a “complete and urgent overhaul” of government policy. She said far-right extremists in particular have been exploiting the right to protest in order to engage in violence.

Khan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What concerns me is that the government’s counter-extremism strategy needs a complete and urgent overhaul, it’s not really dealing with this in the effective way it requires.

“I call on the government to — in light of the fact we are seeing extremists exploit the pandemic, we’re seeing extremists exploit the Black Lives Matter protest — that they urgently commit themselves to working on this new counter-extremism strategy and to recognise that every day we don’t do that we’re seeing extremists radicalise, recruit people and mainstream their propaganda — we need to act now.”

Last week she launched a legal review over concerns there were gaps in the law which allow extremists to push their agenda and sow divisions. The former head of counter-terrorism, Sir Mark Rowley, is leading the inquiry which will examine whether existing legislation adequately addresses “hateful extremism”.

Khan told Today: “We need to carry out this legal review to ensure there are no gaps in the law that extremists are exploiting, and whether in effect (they) could be operating with virtual impunity in our country.”

In a report published in October last year she established there was a category of extremist behaviour which aimed to incite hatred and make a moral justification for violence, but does not count as terrorism.

Khan has described the government’s current definition of extremism as too broad, previously branding its response as “weak” and “insufficient”.

The findings warned that victims needed to be better protected and those working to tackle extremism need more support.

Khan also called for a new task force led by the Home Secretary involving government and public bodies in a bid to address the problem.

The report found far-right figures like Tommy Robinson were using rallies to spread an “anti-Muslim agenda” and “deliberately distort the truth” to incite “discriminatory and hateful attitudes” among supporters.