Commission for Countering Extremism - Independent advisor calls for overhaul of extremism strategy

7 Oct 2019 03:32 PM

The government’s independent advisor on extremism is calling for a complete overhaul of the government’s strategy – recommending a new taskforce led by the Home Secretary.

Sara Khan, who heads up the commission for Countering Extremism, has carried out the first-ever national conversation on extremism and reviewed the government’s current approach.

The commission is today (Monday 7 October) publishing its findings and recommendations in a new report, Challenging Hateful Extremism.

The report identifies a new category of extremist behaviour outside of terrorism and violent extremism, which it calls hateful extremism.

It summarises hateful extremism:

The commission puts forward examples, case studies and the testimony of victims to show the harmful and dangerous consequences of hateful extremism.

Sara Khan says that, unlike our response to terrorism, the current response to hateful extremism is inadequate and unfocused, leaving victims unrecognised and those countering it unsupported.

She calls for a new focus on hateful extremism and a robust, victim-centred and rights-based approach to ensure we respond proportionately to the threat.

The commission recommends a rebooted government strategy and a new taskforce led by the Home Secretary.

Through the taskforce the Home Secretary will provide leadership within government, building on the expertise of those who have been working to challenge hateful extremism elsewhere in society – as with the serious violence taskforce. This will be vital while developing the new strategy.

The report demonstrates the need to recognise and respond more effectively to incidents when they emerge. Victims need to be better protected, counter extremists better supported and hateful extremists better challenged.

Under the proposals the commission would work with the Home Secretary, task force, government bodies and civil society to assess any ongoing or emerging situations and put this response in place.

The report also confirms that the commission will “generate a full, working definition of hateful extremism, to allow everyone to feel more confident in identifying and countering it”.

The Commission

Established in March 2018, the C#commission’s work is built on impartiality, evidence and engagement.

The lead commissioner visited 20 towns and cities; held a series of workshops, roundtables and interviews; spoke to experts, activists and critics and received almost 3,000 responses to a call for evidence.

The commission has also gathered evidence from inside and out of government – including publishing 17 papers from academics.

The report reveals:

Lead Commissioner Sara Khan said:

We are a wonderfully diverse and inclusive society. We must not allow extremists to normalise their hatred.

I am putting forward a clear description of hateful extremism – the inciting or amplifying of hate, the hateful targeting of individuals and making the moral case for violence.

Our country’s response to terrorism is robust. This is not the case for hateful extremism. Yet if we are to be successful in reducing the extremist threat in our society, we need to focus our efforts on challenging hateful extremism.

We are not doing enough to protect victims. We underestimate the impact of those that make the moral case for violence.

We can, and must, do more to address the spread of hateful extremism on our streets and online.

The government must urgently overhaul its approach to challenging extremism, starting with a new definition of hateful extremism, a new government strategy and a Home Secretary-led taskforce.

But this is not just a job for government.

“The challenge of hateful extremism requires a whole society response built on greater leadership, deeper understanding and innovative interventions.

We must get behind those who are bravely challenging individuals and groups who are engaged in hateful extremism in society.

I am proposing a strengthened commission to drive the changes we need.

I want to thank everyone who has contributed experience, expertise and evidence.

Recommendations for government

Recommendations for a whole society response

Recommendations for a strengthened Commission for Countering Extremism

Alongside the full report the commission will publish a series of supporting documents:

Expert group members

Fiyaz Mughal, Founder and Director of Faith Matters, said:

This report by the Commission for Countering Extremism captures what many activists, campaigners and counter-extremism professionals have been saying for years.

There is a cumulative personal, organisational and societal set of extremism impacts that toxifies local and regional communities and the values of the nation. For years, activists challenging extremism have been intimidated, smeared and maligned, and the centrist voices of our communities have been pressurised to keep quiet. This report highlights the national cost of extremism and why we need to redouble our efforts to challenge the purveyors of hateful extremism, and their ideologies and funders.

Dr Julian Hargreaves, Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute, said:

A working description of ‘hateful extremism’ will allow us to assess everyday situations from the viewpoint of the victim, giving us a much better tool to protect and understand those who are targeted by extremist hatred and hostility.

The previous government definition lacked clarity and has not been well-received by the public. The new approach focuses on people and their everyday experiences of victimisation. This will make extremism easier to measure and therefore easier to tackle at a community level.

Peter Tatchell, Director Peter Tatchell Foundation, said:

This is a timely and valuable report as the UK faces on-going threats from far right and Islamist extremism. It demonstrates the need for a new approach from the government and communities to tackle hateful extremism, while also protecting freedom of expression.

Sunder Katwala, Director of independent thinktank British Future, said:

Our society can often feel more divided than any of us would like, with a coming General Election likely to raise the temperature yet further. The commission sets out a framework for building consensus on how to define, isolate and take down hateful extremism – without limiting free speech or being derailed by the polarised political climate. People can express opposing views strongly – but there should be no place for hatred in Britain.

The commission has an expert group which has provided independent advice and challenge. A list of members is on the commission’s website.

Challenging Hateful Extremism