‘We must stand up to religious extremism in the UK before it tears us apart,’ writes Frederick Chedam

Pro-Palestinian rally

‘We must stand up to religious extremism in the UK before it tears us apart,’ writes Frederick Chedam

Frederick Chedham

By Frederick Chedham

Published: 31/03/2024

- 13:47

There has been a marked rise in antisemitic attacks

Conduct a Google search on combatting extremism and the results will overwhelmingly display concerns over far-right activity, the extent of which has proved negligible while a cursory glance at the long list of terrorist attacks shows the causes overwhelmingly to be inspired by religious extremism. That religious extremism is the platform that launches terrorism is a statistical reality, yet one that many shy away from acknowledging openly.

Consider the recent London protests in support of Hamas. Aside from humanitarian concern, one might expect events in Gaza to have little impact on everyday life in the UK but the reality is starkly different. Thousands flood the streets, their voices and slogans timidly policed by a Metropolitan Police force seemingly paralyzed by the fear of losing control over the situation. Amidst these gatherings, a disturbing trend emerges: a rise in anti-Semitic attacks and an atmosphere where Jewish individuals feel unwelcome in their own capital.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman aptly labelled these gatherings as "hate marches," emblematic of a broader surge in religious extremism across the UK. Yet, extremism doesn't solely manifest in these high-profile events.

The failure to define and confront extremism stems from a broader reluctance to draw clear lines. While laws targeting terrorism and hate crimes exist, extremism remains undefined, providing a convenient cloak for those who exploit societal tolerance to advance their agendas. Efforts to establish legal definitions have been met with resistance, often framed as encroachments on free speech or dismissed as hollow gestures.

Legal precedents, such as the Begg v BBC defamation case, may have made some progress and offer an insight into when extremism could cross into legal sanction. The BBC successfully defended its use of the term ‘extremism’ in news reporting in a defamation case brought against it. Yet, the ruling remains isolated, overshadowed by broader legal and academic critiques. The result? Begg v BBC is an obscure defamation case law in a legal landscape riddled with loopholes, allowing hateful ideologies to propagate unchecked.

\u200bRishi SunakRishi Sunak said that many MPs do not feel safe in their homes due to a recent rise in criminality and extremismPA

Addressing this crisis demands clarity and courage. The absence of a robust definition of extremism only emboldens those who seek to sow division and discord. While the notion of multiculturalism is laudable over-tolerance has provided a breeding ground for grievances imported from distant shores, reshaping the landscape of free speech and protest into something unrecognizable.

There's an urgent need for a coherent definition of extremism that guides behaviour across all spheres of public discourse. If academia and policymakers are unable or reluctant to provide a definition, it falls upon lawmakers to have the courage to impose one. The task is daunting, particularly in a political climate where even broaching the subject risks accusations of Islamophobia or cultural insensitivity. It will take a Government with courage to overcome some of the institutional thinking that has come to dominate the debate.


If the Conservatives have failed in this area, we can only imagine how Labour might fare — with a large majority of British Muslims voting for Labour and in positions of authority and already prepared to flex their political muscles over something like a Gaza ceasefire, how can we expect any action on radicalization and extremism that would not tear Labour apart.

Nevertheless, the stakes are too high to succumb to inertia. Public opinion, despite noises at the fringe, supports the need to confront religious extremism head-on. Moderate voices within the Islamic community must also play a pivotal role, stepping up efforts to counter radicalization within their own ranks.

Inaction is not an option. The safety of our society hangs in the balance, threatened by the creeping tendrils of extremism. It's time for leaders to muster the courage to confront this menace before it tears apart our hopes for a truly pluralistic society.

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