Extremist groups ‘weaponise’ Islamophobia
‘Human rights’ arguments also used by radicals to undermine debate, says new counter-terrorism tsar
HARD-LINE groups are “weaponising” Islamophobia and “cynically” using human rights to promote their ideology, the Government’s new counter-extremism tsar has warned.
Sara Khan said that Islamist groups accuse their critics of being anti-Muslim, in an attempt to undermine “legitimate debate” about extremism.
She said that the “use and abuse” of the language of human rights is “per- haps the most concerning” tactic employed by fundamentalist groups.
“Groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, for example – who traditionally rally against what they perceive to be western human rights – increasingly and cynically use human rights to promote Islamist ideology,” Ms Khan said.
“They and their sympathisers weaponise Islamophobia in an attempt to shut down legitimate debate about Islamic extremism while undermining the general struggle against anti-Muslim hatred.”
Ms Khan, who leads the newly created Commission for Countering Extremism, said that far-Right groups also manipulated free speech arguments to “actively peddle hatred”. Plans to set up the commission were announced by the Prime Minister after the Manchester bombing in May last year.
Ms Khan told how the far-Right has “repackaged” traditional racism, adding: “We are now seeing increasing professionalism, international networks and funding and the exploitation of social media.”
Earlier this year, the activist Tommy Robinson – whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – was hailed by his fans as a free speech martyr after he was jailed for contempt of court, but a later appeal was successful.
Hizb ut-Tahrir, a Salafi movement which is proscribed in parts of Europe and much of the Middle East, has called for the establishment of a caliphate and the introduction of Shari’ah law throughout the Islamic world.
The group has been described in a Government report as anti-Semitic, and has previously encouraged British Muslims not to vote in general elections on the basis that it rejects partici- pation in the democratic system.
The Government has threatened to outlaw Hizb ut-Tahrir on several occasions, but each time has failed to follow it through with legislation.
Ms Khan was speaking at an event this week to mark the launch of education charity Since 9/11’s new set of primary school resources, which are aimed at promoting British Values.
Kamal Hanif, an expert in counterextremism education and trustee of the charity, said that primary schoolchildren must learn about tolerance and the rule of law at school to stop poisonous views from their families taking hold.
Unless pupils learn about these topics at school, any potentially dangerous perspectives they have picked up from their parents or wider community will become “embedded” in their thinking from a young age.
He said that it is “crucial” for teachers to educate youngsters about democracy and the rule of law in order to prevent them from “being more prone to more extreme views” in the future.
Mr Hanif was appointed by the Government to turn around three schools at the heart of the alleged Trojan Horse plot, under which a number of Birmingham schools were accused of installing hard-line Islamist practices in the classroom.
Since 2014, schools have been required to promote British Values as part of wider efforts to stamp out extremism. Mr Hanif said that while there has been a big focus on rolling this out at senior schools, more work needs to be done with primaries.
He said that developing a sense of pride in young children about democracy respect is “how you really counter the radical views and extremism”.
‘Groups… increasingly and cynically use human rights to promote Islamist ideology’