19 June 2017

May says Islamophobia is a form of extremism, marking shift in rhetoric

Theresa May’s Downing Street declaration that the Finsbury Park terrorist attack was “every bit as sickening” as Manchester and London Bridge and description of Islamophobia as another form of extremism marks a distinct and important change in rhetoric from the prime minister.

.... The prime minister also reiterated her proposal for an anti-extremism commission, comparing its role to that of the Commission for Racial Equality which fought racism in the 1970s and 1980s: “Because this extremism is every bit as insidious and destructive to our values and our way of life and we will stop at nothing to defeat it.”

But as Dr Chris Allen of Birmingham University has pointed out, Islamophobia is more akin to everyday racism or homophobia perpetrated by ordinary people rather than the exclusive reserve of a terrorist ideology.

.... As the former official reviewer of terrorism laws, David Anderson QC, has pointed out, one in four of those referred to the government’s Prevent anti-radicalisation programme are now far-right radicals. The security minister, Ben Wallace, said last October that in some parts of the country, far-right extremists outnumbered Islamist extremist suspects. Anderson warned in February that far-right extremism in Britain could be “as murderous as its Islamist equivalent”.

The prime minister’s change in rhetoric is welcome but the real test will be whether her new legislation is recalibrated to tackle far-right ideology just as vigorously as that of radical Islamists. [The Guardian] Read more