NEW Government legislation will include powers to put non-violent extremists who radicalise young people “out of action”, David Cameron has said.
The action against Islamist “influencers” forms part of a five-year plan to crush the home-grown extremism which the Prime Minister said had led to up to 700 young Britons travelling abroad to fight for the Islamic State (IS) terror group and left Muslim parents “living in fear” that their children may be radicalised.
In a high-profile speech in Birmingham, Mr Cameron announced plans for a new scheme allowing parents to apply to have their own children’s passports removed if they suspect them of planning to travel abroad to join a radical group.
The PM said Britain must act to “de-glamourise” groups like IS by making young people aware of the brutal reality of life in the parts of Iraq and Syria which they control.
And he said the UK should do more to promote its own creed of tolerance, democracy, the rule of law and freedom of speech and should make clear that the doctrine of respect for different faiths must be matched by those faiths supporting the British way of life.
Mr Cameron said it was not enough for extremists to say they opposed IS - also known as Isil, Isis or Daesh - for them to prove that they were not a threat. This would be setting the bar for acceptability “ludicrously low”, and groups should be expected also to condemn conspiracy theories, anti-semitism and sectarianism, he said.
“We need to put out of action the key extremist influencers who are careful to operate just inside the law but who clearly detest British society and everything we stand for,” said the Prime Minister.
“These people aren’t just extremists, they are also despicable far-right groups too, and what links them all is their aim to groom young people and brainwash their minds.
“Let’s be clear who benefits most from us being tough on these non-violent extremists - it’s Muslim families living in fear that their children could be radicalised and run off to Syria, and communities worried about some poisonous far-right extremists planning to attack your mosque.”
A new Extremism Bill will include “narrowly-targeted” powers to tackle these “facilitators and cult leaders” and stop them “peddling their hatred”, said Mr Cameron.
He also said the Government would take action to tackle sectarian and communal segregation in schools, and called on communications watchdog Ofcom to clamp down on cable TV channels broadcasting extremist messages.
Universities should be ready to challenge extremist speakers on campus and broadcasters should use a wider range of speakers from Muslim communities, rather than repeatedly putting extreme voices on screen, he said.
Mr Cameron said that too often the authorities had “turned a blind eye” to issues like forced marriage or female genital mutilation (FGM) for fear of offending cultural sensitivities.
Announcing a consultation on introducing lifetime anonymity for the victims of forced marriages, he said he wanted to see more prosecutions in cases of this sort as part of a drive to “enforce” British values and ensure they applied uniformly to people of all backgrounds.
“My argument with young people being sucked towards this appalling extremist Isil worldview is ‘You are heading towards a belief system that believes in throwing people off buildings, raping children, enslaving women’,” said the Prime Minister.
“The values of freedom and democracy are far stronger, far better than the values of Isil.
“We are not serving our argument or serving our country or serving new arrivals to our country if we don’t enforce these values uniformly.
“If we have a situation where young people are being taken off and married against their will or having the appalling practice of FGM carried out on them, and the British state and the British Government and the British Parliament and police and courts look the other way, we are not showing great confidence in our values.
“Our values are so great that we should want to enforce them for all, including new arrivals, including people subjected potentially to those practices.”
Mr Cameron attacked the National Union of Students for “allying itself” with the Muslim advocacy group Cage, one of whose officials earlier this year described the IS terrorist nicknamed Jihadi John as a “beautiful young man”.
In a direct message to the students’ body, he said: “I want to say something to the National Union of Students. When you choose to ally yourself with an organisation like Cage, which called Jihadi John a ‘beautiful young man’ and told people to support the jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan, it really does in my opinion shame your organisation and your noble tradition of campaigning for justice.”
Mr Cameron said that the Government will publish a new counter-extremism strategy in the autumn, setting out a range of action in what he described as the “struggle of our generation”.
This will include action to “expose” extremism and to refute conspiracy theories which accuse the West or Jews of seeking to destroy Islam or claim that Muslims are trying to take over the UK.
He said internet companies will be expected to go “much further” in protecting users from being exposed to extremist material.
And he announced a new review by Louise Casey into boosting opportunity and integration for minority groups.
A spokesman for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Arzu Merali, said: “Cameron’s claims simply reinforce the now widely-held prejudice that Muslim politics and practice are violently inimical to the society we live in.
“In fact, policy after policy from this and previous governments have forced Muslims into silence over valid claims whilst lauding a fictional idea of European supremacy over them and other beleaguered minorities. It is time for a push-back against this divisive and sinister narrative.”
And a spokesman for the Hizb-ut-Tahrir organisation, which campaigns for an Islamic caliphate, said: “Like his predecessors, Cameron conflates legitimate religious and political views that Muslims hold with the chaos that has been created in Iraq and Syria.
“His recipe for dealing with ‘extremism’ is a dog’s breakfast - gesture politics, policies that will cause more damage within communities and add to the confusion and chaos across the world, plus a spectacular ideological own goal.
“You cannot launch a PR campaign to promote ‘British values’ whilst simultaneously using civil, legal and security agencies to forcibly convert people to your ‘creed’ because you have failed to convince them intellectually.”