UK 'Islamists' get more jail time than far-right extremists, according to damning report

UK 'Islamists' get more jail time than far-right extremists, according to damning report
A new report by a London-based think tank found that Muslim terrorists spend more time behind bars than right-wing extremists.
4 min read
21 January, 2020
The report pushes the British government to focus on the growing right wing extremism [Getty]
"Islamists" receive three-times longer jail terms than their far-right extremist counterparts, highlighting judicial concerns over the perception of Muslims in the UK.

Analysis by the Henry Jackson Society, a right-wing foreign policy think tank based in London found that "Islamists" get on average almost three times longer sentences than far-right terrorists.

Out of 107 offenders from 2015 to 2019 who were convicted for "terrorist or hate crime offences" with an online component, Islamists received an average of 73.4 months compared to 24.5 month for far-right offenders.

This indicate a discrepancy in the way that governments view extremism from different backgrounds.

Blame for this discrepancy falls on the government, the report found, in failing to ban far-right extremist groups with the same voracity as it does for Islamist groups.

Nikita Malika, director of the think tank's Centre for Radicalisation and Terrorism said: "The lack of far-right groups subject to proscription in the UK, when compared to Islamist groups, has left the authorities reliant on hate crime legislation rather than specific terrorist offenses which carry heftier sentences."

"The government will need to keep this situation under review in a fast-moving online world, where offending causes real and significant harm," she added.

Punishment to fit the crime?

The report found that sharing hateful content online can be punished in different ways, with severity depending on the nature of the crime, such as malicious communications and hate crimes, as well as if the individual is associated with a proscribed organisation.

Punishments tend to be less severe than those for crimes which fall under the Terrorism Acts, for example incitement, expressing religious or racial hatred and malicious communication.

Given its proliferation online and in terror attacks across the world in the past few years, the report gave much attention to the Islamic State group.

It found that of the terror-related charges, the largest organisational affiliation of offenders were from IS, 51.2 per cent of the cases, followed by no affiliation (anti-Muslim) at 12.1 percent, and then anti-semitic or Nazi-related content at 10.2 percent.

The rise of right-wing extremism is a problem not only in the UK but across the world.

Counter-terrorism police have named the far-right as the UK's fastest-growing terror threat, with online-material found to be a motivator in planned terror attacks.

Malik said right-wing extremists frequently used "free speech" arguments, making them more difficult to critique, whereas Islamists often defend their freedom of religion.

Generation Identity for example, the terrorist group responsible for the Christchurch shooting and other terror attacks is predicated on a white genocide ideology it defends on the basis of protecting "European culture".

"Companies are unable to take down a lot of this content because they have a list from the government of proscribed groups and these groups are simply not on it," Malik added.

"There's no consistency between the companies."

This comes after the Commission for Countering Extremism called on creating a new category of extremist behaviour called "hateful" extremism, designed to standardise extremism across religions and ideologies whilst still maintaining freedom of speech.

'Prevent' the wrong way to go?

As right-wing extremism rises in the UK, the country’s counter-terrorism strategy Prevent is under increasing scrutiny in what critics are calling "racist" for "disproportionately targeting Muslim communities".

"All research continues to point to the fact that the vast majority of its [Prevent’s] targets remain Muslim, despite the fact that they make up just over four percent of the British population," activist Malia Bouattia wrote for The New Arab.

The Commission for Countering Terrorism (CCE) released a report late last year challenging extremism in England and Wales.

It was deemed by many to be recycling the same old anti-Muslim stereotypes with one dangerous addition – including "far-left" and "environmentalist" groups on the side of "hateful extremism".

Bouattia wrote: "This broadening of the scope is now turning more obviously on the far-left, which for the CCE includes environmentalists, as well as anti-cuts, anti-racism, anti-imperialist activists."

"While Palestine activism, anti-fracking campaigning, or criticism of British foreign policy have already been used as indicators of extremism by Prevent in the past, the report institutionalises it further."

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