The Extremism Commission
The Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) was established in 2018 to advise the government on “new policies to deal with extremism, including the need for any new powers”.
Headed by Sara Khan, the CCE has been tasked with:
- Engaging widely and openly on extremism and shared values;
- Publishing a study into the threat of extremism and the current response.
The Government has failed to define extremism so far. Because of this, we believe it is highly unlikely that the CCE will be able to do so.
This campaign was established to fight against Government proposals like EDOs which threatened to curb free speech because of their vague wording around extremism.
The Extremism Commission must place a high premium on freedom of speech and not give ground to those who want to ban opinions they don’t like by branding them ‘extremist’.
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.