There are a few issues that come to mind with the new counter-terrorism proposals, notably those about powers to force universities to ban extremist speakers.
This issue of extremist speakers goes back to the Conservative government’s move away from funding radical Islamists who did not support the use of terrorism – the rationale behind that was it could undercut the support for violent extremists by providing a counter-narrative to engaging in violent jihad.
So there has been a shift toward blurring extremism and violence, and denying that one can actually help prevent the other.
The Home Office’s definition of extremism under the new government has always been a bit broad – sure, there is a logic there but it ends up potentially cutting your nose off to spite your face.
There are speakers who could be considered extreme but will convincingly argue against violence and propose alternatives to addressing grievances. If they have been a former jihadist then I think people at the risk of engaging in terrorism will listen to them, definitely more than they would to a lecturer, policeman or politician.
You see this in other contexts where former combatants are utilised to help prevent terrorism – but the new government’s counter-terrorism strategy has cut that off.
The assumption seems to be that providing radical anti-violence Islamist voices still increases the risk of violent extremism. That can be true but there is also a potential middle area, where you can support anti-violence messages that resonate with at-risk communities, while providing space for an identity which may not be to the government’s liking.
Dr Gordon Clubb
Lecturer in International
University of Leeds
Theresa May’s new anti-terror proposals are further drastic attacks on democratic rights, under the fraudulent pretext of combating “extremism”.
Fundamental democratic norms are being obliterated in a manufactured atmosphere of fear in preparation for more predatory wars. Mrs May has asserted the need for new “anti-terror” measures based on information the intelligence agencies have. Without giving any details whatsoever.
The anti-democratic legislation introduced since the early 2000s – by governments of every political stripe in the name of the “war on terror” – is ultimately aimed at cracking down on growing social opposition to imperialist war and rising levels of social inequality. This is why so-called “extremists” are being increasingly designated as an all-embracing main threat, supplanting the previous “terrorist” bogeyman.
The branding as “extremists” all those who can be deemed in any way opposed to the government’s right-wing, anti-working class policies has been UK government policy for some time.
Under the guise of fighting “terrorism” and “extremism” their real target is to suppress growing opposition to savage austerity and imperialist war.
We are told that these measures are necessary to identify those going to Syria. Any Briton travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight will likely already be very well known to the intelligence agencies. This is especially the case given that the Cameron government was actively promoting the “rebel” forces in Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Were Britain to have participated in Washington’s planned air strikes against Assad last year, they would have done so in alliance with the very same forces now described as “extremists.”
Anti-terror legislation has continually been abused. The terrorist threat has been exaggerated in order to trick people into giving up privacy.