UK proposes controversial laws to combat extremism

UK proposes controversial laws to combat extremism
The UK government is set to propose highly controversial laws it says are needed to combat extremism, amid concerns that they infringe fundamental rights and freedoms.
4 min read
The Conservative government is to include a new law to 'defeat extremism' [Anadolu]

British Prime Minister David Cameron says that new measures are needed to combat "poisonous Islamist ideology".

His centre-right Conservative government is to include a new law to "defeat extremism" in its legislative programme which will be announced to parliament by Queen Elizabeth II on May 27.

     Britain has been 'passively tolerant' for too long and will vow to 'turn the page on this failed approach'

Britain's strategy on "Islamist extremism" has been in the spotlight for months since Islamic State (IS) executioner "Jihadi John" was identified as Mohammed Emwazi from London and a string of young people left Britain to fight for the IS group in Syria.

Among them were the three British schoolgirls from East London who left to join IS in Syria last February.

The new measures are expected to go further than under the last Cameron-led administration because their former coalition partners, the centrist Liberal Democrats, blocked some measures.

Cameron is to say Britain has been "passively tolerant" for too long and will vow to "turn the page on this failed approach," according to his office.

The legislation is set to include new banning orders for "extremist organisations" seen as responsible for radicalisations and restrictions on people deemed extremists who seek to enter Britain.

The government will also get powers to close premises "where extremists seek to influence others", and there would be new powers against charities which divert funds towards groups labelled extremist and terrorist.

"We will introduce legislation to combat groups and individuals who reject our values and promote messages of hate," Home Secretary Theresa May is to say, according to Cameron's office.

The measures were set to be unveiled at the first meeting of the National Security Council under Cameron's new government.

The Muslim Council of Britain umbrella group criticised the government's approach to the issue earlier this year, calling for more consultation with Muslim communities.

"Rather than relying on a premise of a conveyor belt from conservative and non-violent extremism to violent extremism that lacks credence, a fresh approach is required," its secretary-general Shuja Shafi wrote in March.

Return to the UK

According to sources, three East London teenage girls, who had earlier run away from their homes in Britain and headed to Syria via Turkey to marry fighters with Islamic State are now seeking to return to the UK.

Shaimima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana are said to be in hiding somewhere in the region and want to return to the UK.

However,  Theresa May the british interior refused to say whether the girls would be allowed to return to the UK, saying that returnees from Syria are dealt with on a 'case by case' basis.

In March, Mark Rowley, head of counter-terrorism for the Metropolitan police said that if the girls were to return home, they would not face charges of terrorism, unless new evidence comes to light.

"We have no evidence in this case that these three girls are responsible for any terrorist offences. They have no reason to fear...that we will be treating them as terrorists," Rowley said.

"Effectively this is immunity", Tasnime Akunjee, the solicitor for the girls' three families, told the Guardian in March.

But a counter-terrorism bill passed in January included special exclusion orders, which could stop suspected fighters for Islamic groups from entering the UK for two years unless they agreed to a number of conditions, including deradicalisation courses and to face trial.

The legislation was moderated from earlier plans to strip fighters of their British citizenship altogether.

A mother of a returned fighter from Syria told The Independent in January that her son was mentally damaged after his experiences in Syria, and she fears that the lack of support given to returnees from Syria may lead to domestic terrorist attacks.

The policies contrast more holistic approaches adopted in Denmark, which aim to rehabilitate, instead of punishing, returning fighters in Syria.

This includes methods such as counselling, education and help into employment.

Although the move has been politically unpopular within some Danish opposition groups who advocate a tougher approach to returning fighters, the plans seem to have had some effect, with 31 men from the city of Aarhus heading to fight in Syria in 2012-2013, compared to just one last year.