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A Commission for Countering Extremism? | Roger Kiska

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Roger Kiska exposes the hidden dangers in the Government's new proposal to create a new 'Commission for Countering Extremism'.
 

In the Queen's speech on 21 June, Her Majesty set out the Government's intention to establish a new Commission for Countering Extremism "to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread".Following the Queen's speech, the issue of the new Commission has been addressed on several occasions during debates in both the House of Commons and House of Lords.
 

What is extremism?

The establishment of such a commission poses numerous and serious threats to democratic principles and freedom of religion or belief. It also lends itself to furthering the already toxic political culture regarding Christian religious freedom. Lord Paddick of the Liberal Democrats, for example, made it clear that he wants extremism to be defined as anyone who opposes LGBT politics.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb of the Green Party rightly told the Lords that in the current political culture, we can only imagine how some elected officials would wish to define what an 'extremist' actually is. Fiona Bruce reminded the Commons that we must be very careful how we define extremism, a task which the Government has yet to satisfactorily undertake.
 

Targeting Christians

If we have learned anything from the resignation of Tim Farron, it is that our governing institutions have very little tolerance for Christians or their beliefs. When being a Christian is increasingly becoming a bar to office, how can we expect these same legislative forces to not interject their political bias in labelling Biblical Christian beliefs as extremist? 

Rather than marginalising Christian belief, the Government has an interest in defending and promoting it. A steadily growing body of evidence from the social sciences demonstrates that 'regular religious practice' benefits individuals, families and communities, and thus the nation as a whole. Rather than punishing the manifestation of Christian belief, policy makers should be encouraging an environment in which Christian institutions and organisations can thrive and citizens can actively practice their faith.
 

Making the distinction

From a legal perspective, the government not only has a right to distinguish between radical Islamic extremism and other religious belief, it has a duty to do so. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Refah Partisi (the Welfare Party) and Others v. Turkey, held that radical Islam and Sharia law were incompatible with a democratic society and therefore not worthy of protection. This position has been upheld numerous times since that ruling and makes up part of the United Kingdom's corpus of law through the Human Rights Act. At the same time, Christian religious freedom enjoys strict protection under the law.

It is time to put away the rhetoric and political correctness; and to stop treating different things as equal. Under the banner of tackling extremism to date, public authorities have far too often unfairly targeted Christians. The new Commission for Countering Extremism should have a very clear and limited mandate which ensures that investigatory organs do not waste large amounts of their time and our tax payer money investigating the wrong people because of political bias towards Christianity. It is time also to use the existing laws, which are ample, to bring an end to violent Islamist terrorism in this country.



 

 

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