The Sunday Telegraph

Extremist groups ‘weaponise’ Islamophob­ia

‘Human rights’ arguments also used by radicals to undermine debate, says new counter-terrorism tsar

- By Camilla Turner EDUCATION EDITOR

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’

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