October 12, 2018 Faith Matters

Challenge to Extremist Groups is Still Missing in the UK

We have been systematically and methodically documenting the rise of extremist groups affecting the United Kingdom and there have been more complex and increasing risks from countries in Europe where far right extremism is on the rise. However, Islamist extremism in the form of groups such as Tehreek-e-Labaik, who are based in Pakistan, is becoming a risk to UK communities of Pakistani heritage, as speakers seek to enter and promote their views in our country. This group in particular, can only be described as murderous and determined to harm those it regards as ‘blasphemers’.

However, existing extremist groups in the UK have not been challenged enough, whether by Government or by civil society groups. The latter are not willing to put themselves in a space that is challenging with limited resources. The former is just not able to respond and with strategies that are incoherent and disconnected. Within that space, extremist groups have thrived with their hatred against Jews, LGBT communities, Muslims and others and have been instrumental in building a deep sense of victimisation in communities. Such groups have fund-raised within communities by building a sense of ‘them and us’ – where the ‘them’ are the structures of the State in which they live and the ‘us’ being victimised communities.

For far too long these extremist groups have been allowed to operate. They have filled some of those spaces with their bully-boy tactics and false narratives, yet still, there is no singular entity that is able to put together a coherent plan and strategy to counter them publicly and to untangle their hatred and rhetoric. That has to change.

Whilst we warmly welcome the work of the Commission on Countering Extremism led by the formidable Sara Khan, the Commission is going out to communities in a bid to assess what extremism means to them and what it looks and feels like. This is much needed. This also means that for the next 2 years, the space to challenge extremist groups in the UK may develop, though there is nothing to fill that space now, nor is there any firm guarantee that the next 2 years will see non governmental agencies take on the mantle of openly challenging such groups. There is clearly a void and a real risk to communities.

As each month goes by, there are missed opportunities to challenge these purveyors of hate. Either the Government and its agencies are serious in tackling the poison being pumped into communities through co-ordinated action which is needed now, or they should step back and allow determined and focused groups to take on that challenge. Right now, the lack of action is dangerous.