Muslim Council of Britain could be designated as 'extremist' under new government plans

Muslim Council of Britain could be designated as 'extremist' under new government plans
The Muslim Council of Britain could be designated as 'extremist' under new plans by the UK government's Communities Secretary Michael Gove.
3 min read
07 March, 2024
Communities Secretary Michael Gove will unveil plans to allow the Government and public bodies to crack down on a wider range of Islamist and Right-wing groups [GETTY]]

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Palestine Action and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) could be among groups identified as extremists under new UK government plans to broaden the definition of that term.

The Daily Telegraph revealed the plans would allow universities, councils and other public bodies to ban groups from venues or campuses and block funding if they are judged to be promoting an extremist ideology that "undermines" or "overturns" so-called British values.

The Communities Secretary Michael Gove said he is concerned the current definition of extremism is too narrow and allows so-called Islamist and Right-wing groups to "get away" with behaviour that stirs racial and religious hatred, threatens communities and divides society.

The government has a non-engagement policy with the MCB over its alleged association with extremism, but Whitehall departments have still worked with it and provided it with funds.

The Ministry of Defence has previously used the council to appoint imams in the military, while the police have worked with leading figures like MCB vice president Mohammed Kozbar against domestic extremism in Finsbury Park Mosque.

However, Kozbar has praised Hamas as "martyrs of the resistance", which for many is considered a legitimate political opinion given the group was democratically elected and operates within Israel's illegal occupation and siege of Palestinian land.

“We await to see how the government will expand its definition of extremism and whether they would also cover large swathes of the Conservative Party leadership who have directed divisive and hateful rhetoric against Muslims, and the large portion of the Party’s membership with conspiratorial views about Muslims,” the Muslim Council of Britain said in a press release shared with The New Arab.

“That the same people would choose to consider mainstream, diverse and democratic British Muslim representative bodies as extremist is particularly ironic.”

Palestine Action has remained defiant in light of the news of the potential designation of the group as extremist. The group is taking direct action against Israel's arms trade in Britain and is committed to closing down Elbit Systems, Israel's largest arms manufacturer.

"This government along with Israel has killed over 30,000 Palestinians in a genocide," Palestine Action told The New Arab, mentioning that the majority of the population in this country share their view and reject complicity in genocide.

"According to the arms trade treaty of which Britain is a ratifier, it should not be arming Israel. Is the Arms trade treaty and international law extreme?"

The organisation also said that "no definition will deter our [their] campaign to shut Elbit down."

Last year, the Inter Faith Network (IFN) closed down after the government pulled funding due to its association with an ex-member of the MCB.

Gove said he was "minded to withdraw" government funding for the IFN after the appointment of Hassan Joudi, a former deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), as a trustee.

This comes amid fears that the British government is using the events of 7 October to crack down on pro-Palestinian activism within the UK.

Even before 7 October, Gove introduced controversial legislation in the UK parliament that would see public bodies banned from engaging in boycotts of Israel, regardless of Tel Aviv engaging in an illegal occupation, potential war crimes and, as ruled by the International Court of Justice in January, plausible acts of genocide in the Palestinian enclave.