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Respond to call for evidence on extremism

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The Commission for Countering Extremism has an open call for evidence asking the public to provide examples of extremism in England and Wales. Please make time to respond, drawing attention to the vague and subjective meaning of ‘extremism’, which provides a poor basis for good policy decision-making. Please also recommend a focus on violent extremism and extremism linked to terrorism.

Please follow the following link to respond online to the consultation:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/extremism-in-england-and-wales-call-for-evidence

The deadline for responding is 31 January 2019

This guide presents suggested answers and points to make in your response. We suggest leaving some questions blank; these questions are ommitted from the guide below.

Section 1. Experiences of and Insights into Extremism

Question 1a. Can you describe extremism?

We suggest selecting ‘Not sure’ since extremism is very difficult to define well.

1b.) If you said ‘yes’ or ‘not sure’, please describe what extremism looks like to you.

We suggest making some of the following points:

  • The government should focus specifically on violent extremism as set out in the Counter-Extremism Strategy. This would enable an objective assessment of problems around specific crimes and terrorism motivated by extremist ideologies.
  • There are several definitions of extremism used by different institutions which demonstrates the difficulty of defining it.
  • The concept of extremism is strictly speaking subjective and has been applied arbitrarily to existing values.
  • Holding strong or unpopular views should not be considered extremist on its own.
  • Non-violent extremism is very difficult to define.
  • Advocating violence in pursuit of political aims is clearly extremist.
  • The real problem is with those that advocate or support the use of terrorism to achieve their aims. This is where the focus should be in tackling extremism.

2a.) How helpful is the following definition of extremism?

We suggest selecting ‘Very unhelpful’.

2b.) What is the main reason for your response?

  • There is a difference between respect and tolerance of persons and respect and tolerance of beliefs. Some beliefs are not worthy of respect. For example racism. The definition needs to clearly ensure that not all beliefs deserve respect.
  • It is right to have a focus on values. However it is important to recognise honestly that concepts such as ‘the rule of law’ and ‘individual liberty’ are already contested anyway in the legal profession and public life for reasons that have little to do directly with the issues covered in the Counter-Extremism Strategy.
  • The concept of mutual respect etc. cannot be applied consistently as some beliefs fall under the category of violent extremism.

 

Section One - Part Two

3.) How important do you think the following factors are when considering extremism in this country?

We suggest selecting ‘Don’t know’ for each example, apart from ‘Links between extremism and terrorism’ where we would select ‘Very Important’.

4a.) Is there one factor from the list above that you think is most important when considering extremism?

We suggest answering ‘Yes’

4b.) If you said ‘yes’ or ‘other’, please tell us which factor you think is most important and why.

Our suggested answer is the link with terrorism - this is the single biggest threat to the United Kingdom. Furthermore terrorism involves violence and this is what distinguishes extremism and how extremism should be defined.

 

Section One - Part Four

6a.) Can you describe the harms caused by extremism?

We suggest selecting ‘Not sure’.

6b.) If you said ‘yes’ or ‘not sure’, how would you describe these harms?

  • If we are talking about violent extremism the answer is ‘Yes’ as the harms are evident: Intimidation, harassment and serious curtailment of the fundamental freedoms of people who choose to leave a particular religion or belief.
  • The Counter-Extremism Strategy refers to so-called ‘grooming gangs’, which are a form of violent extremism. These harm their victims and their relationship with their families and communities of origin as well as social institutions. Collusion with this violent extremism by members of relevant professions such as the police, social services, hospitals, teachers, is just as serious.

7b.) What is the main reason for your response?

  • If we are talking about violent extremism the answer is potentially everyone because anybody can be the target of terrorism, which is the greatest security threat to the UK at present and will be for the foreseeable future.
  • The list of groups at risk of extremism excludes humanists or secularists which gives the unreasonable impression that religious people are more prone to extremism.

9a.) Does extremism cause harm to society and its institutions more widely e.g. to democracy?

Yes

9b.) If you said ‘yes’ or ‘not sure’, how would you describe these harms?

  • Violent extremism causes harm to society and institutions.
  • For example the prisons in England have a problem with advocacy of Islamist extremism by imams and with prisoners influencing others to convert and be radicalised. Such influence undermines the possibility of rehabilitating prisoners and clearly undermines prison discipline.

 

Section One - Part five

10a.) Do you think more should be done to counter extremism?

We suggest selecting ‘Not Sure’.

10b.) What is the main reason for your response?

  • The first and most important thing that needs to be done is to have a very clear definition of extremism that focusses on advocating violence and that does not restrict freedom of speech otherwise.

14.) What is the one thing you would give greater priority to, in our efforts to counter extremism offline and online, and why?  

Some suggested points to make:

  • The definition of extremism should be carefully worded so that expression of unpopular or strongly held views does not constitute extremism and so that free speech is preserved.
  • The government should challenge social media companies, broadcasters, universities and other institutions that undermine or restrict free speech.
  • The prison system needs to be reformed to prevent Islamist extremism from spreading.  

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