Ex­trem­ist groups ‘weaponise’ Is­lam­o­pho­bia

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

The Sunday Telegraph - - Terror Watch - 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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