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Thursday, May 23, 2024

British gov’t’s new anti-extremism plan raises alarm bells over risk of targeting Muslims

'Our leaders should…pursue policies that bring us together, not risk driving us apart,' say Anglican clerics in statement

The British government’s new anti-extremism plan has raised concern, with many arguing that the controversial move risks “disproportionately targeting Muslim communities.”

With the ruling Conservative Party already under fire over allegations of racism, a government move that is expected to be announced later this week has already caused worry in Britain.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove seeks to use parliamentary privilege to name individual groups that “undermine British democracy.”

Read more: British TV Host Reeks of Islamophobia as She Yells at Palestinian MP During Live Interview

“This is in response to the fact that in recent months, we’ve seen an unacceptable rise in extremist activity, which is seeking to divide our society and hijack our democratic institutions,” the Prime Minister’s Office said Monday.

It came after the disruption of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s address in early March at Downing Street, where he spoke about a “surge in extremist activities” in Britain.

“On too many occasions recently, our streets have been hijacked by a small group…who are hostile to our values and have no respect for our democratic traditions,” he said, referring to pro-Palestine marches across the country.

The rallies, which have been organized since Oct. 7 last year to call for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, were called “hate marches” by politicians, including then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman, despite being described as peaceful by many.

Read more: Students accuse teachers of Islamophobia regarding Renaissance painting in France

The marches are being targeted by politicians despite a very low number of protesters being arrested.

It was not the first time that Braverman drew criticism, as she previously labelled migration an “invasion” and falsely claimed child grooming gangs in the country were “almost all British-Pakistani.”

In November, she was fired in a Cabinet reshuffle after a row over her controversial remarks on pro-Palestinian protests and her article in The Times newspaper which met with massive criticism.

In the article, she accused the Metropolitan Police of “playing favorites” with protesters, after the London police force decided not to seek a ban on a planned march on Armistice Day.

One of the latest controversial remarks from the Conservative Party came from its former deputy chair, Lee Anderson, who was recently suspended for making Islamophobic comments.

He was suspended as a Conservative lawmaker after refusing to apologize for claiming that Islamists had “control” over London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Amid reports of an increase in Islamophobia, the government’s new plan on “extremism” has also come under criticism from England’s top clerics, who warned that the new definition of extremism not only inadvertently threatens freedom of speech but also the right to worship, and “risks disproportionately targeting Muslim communities.”

According to Tell MAMA, a watchdog focusing on anti-Muslim incidents, Islamophobic incidents in the UK have more than tripled since Oct. 7, when Israel launched its war on the Gaza Strip.

“The new definition being proposed not only inadvertently threatens freedom of speech, but also the right to worship and peaceful protest – things that have been hard won and form the fabric of a civilized society,” Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, said Tuesday in a joint statement.

“Crucially, it risks disproportionately targeting Muslim communities, who are already experiencing rising levels of hate and abuse,” they said.

Expressing concerns, Welby and Cottrell joined calls for the government to reconsider its approach and instead have a “broad-based conversation” with all those who it will affect.

“Our leaders should cherish and promote that – and pursue policies that bring us together, not risk driving us apart,” they added.