The Government has vowed to tackle extremism ‘in all its forms’.
But who are ‘extremists’? Terrorists? Of course. But what about political activists? Religious groups? Anti-religious groups? Trade unionists? Environmental campaigners? Are these people extremists too?
The Government must tackle terrorism and criminal behaviour.
But defining extremism too widely risks harming free speech.
Join the campaign today and help us #DefendFreeSpeech.
This will have the effect of ramping up a climate of fear where both lecturers and students are afraid to speak.
Because of the low burden of proof, it is perfectly plausible that comedians, satirists, campaign groups, religious groups, secularist groups, and even journalists could find themselves subject to these draconian measures.
Those engaged in passionate debates – such as Christians objecting to gay marriage – could find themselves slapped down.
It makes an absolute mockery, a nonsense, of the very values that we’re trying to defend.
This could cover, not just Islamist hotheads, but Trotskyists who don’t respect British laws or Christians who don’t support gay marriage (and therefore don’t have “respect for minorities”).
While everyone applauds the principle of tackling Islamic extremism, comments by David Cameron and other senior members of the Government suggest EDOs will exceed even Labour's notorious religious hatred Bill or Section 5 of the Public Order Act.
The fact that these Extremist Disruption Orders won’t only apply to potential terrorists, but simply to those who present a threat to public disorder, clearly highlights that this policy is the thin end of the wedge.
The very definition—the heart—of a free, liberal society is that we should be free to offend each other, and that is what is at stake in this new debate.
One can imagine already the powers being used against harmless evangelical street preachers or the like, out of misplaced zeal and a desire to demonstrate that they are not directed against one religion alone.
The Government should have every tool possible to tackle extremism and terrorism, but there is a huge arsenal of laws already in place and a much better case needs to be made for introducing draconian measures such as Extremism Disruption Orders, which are almost unchallengeable and deprive individuals of their liberties.
Restricting free speech, and forcing those who hold views inimical to our own into the shadows, is an authoritarian act that will only serve to further alienate those susceptible to extremist views.
The National Secular Society
The National Secular Society is Britain’s only national organisation working exclusively towards a secular society. Founded in 1866, it campaigns for the separation of religion and state and promotes secularism as the best means to create a society in which people of all religions or none can live together fairly and cohesively.
The Peter Tatchell Foundation
The Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF) seeks to promote and protect the human rights of individuals, communities and nations, in the UK and internationally, in accordance with established national and international human rights law.
Big Brother Watch
Big Brother Watch campaigns on behalf of the individual, to educate and encourage more control over personal data. We work to ensure that those who fail to respect our privacy, whether private companies, government departments or local authorities are held to account.
Index on Censorship
Index on Censorship is an international organisation that promotes and defends the right to freedom of expression. The inspiration of poet Stephen Spender, Index was founded in 1972 to publish the untold stories of dissidents behind the Iron Curtain. Today, we fight for free speech around the world, challenging censorship whenever and wherever it occurs.
The Freedom Association
The Freedom Association is a non-partisan, centre-right, libertarian pressure group. TFA believes in the freedom of the individual in all aspects of life to as great an extent as possible. As such, we seek to challenge all erosion of civil liberties and campaign in support of individual liberty and freedom of expression.
Caroline Lucas MP, co-leader, Green Party of England and Wales
The Christian Institute
The Christian Institute exists for “the furtherance and promotion of the Christian religion in the United Kingdom” and “the advancement of education”. It is a non-denominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible. It is supported by individuals and churches throughout the UK.
English PEN is the founding centre of a global literary network. We work to defend and promote freedom of expression, and to remove barriers to literature.
The Manifesto Club
The Manifesto Club campaigns against the hyperregulation of everyday life. We support free movement across borders, free expression and free association. We believe that the freedom issues of the twenty-first century cut across old political boundaries, and require new schools of political thought, and new methods of campaigning and organisation.
Rt Hon David Davis MP, former Secretary of State for Exiting the EU
Prof Timothy Garton Ash
Fiona Bruce MP
Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
ARTICLE 19 is a global human rights organisation, with nine offices worldwide, which promotes and defends freedom of expression and information. It’s vision is a world in which all people can freely express themselves and actively engage in public life without fear or discrimination.