Quilliam welcomes the British government’s new commitment to tackling all forms of non-violent extremism as well as violent extremism and terrorism as laid out in Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech in Germany earlier today. Quilliam has long advocated the need to tackle non-violent extremism not only because it can be a route to violent extremism but also because such extremism is in itself harmful to modern, multi-ethnic and multi-faith societies.
Quilliam particularly welcomes the government’s new commitments to:
1. Distinguishing between Islam the religion, and Islamism ‘the political ideology’, and recognising that they ‘are not the same thing’. Since it was founded in 2008, Quilliam has consistently emphasised the importance of governments making this key distinction in order to tackle genuine extremism while avoiding targeting ordinary Muslims and their faith, even when they are religiously conservative.
2. Recognising that ‘non-violent extremists’ can create an atmosphere conducive to terrorism. Quilliam has consistently emphasised that Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Jamaat-e-Islami and the Muslim Brotherhood can create a ‘mood music’ conducive to acts of terrorism and it has advocated that harmful aspects of their work and ideology should correspondingly be identified, challenged and tackled.
3. Ceasing funding, endorsing or establishing joint initiatives with extremists. Since its inception in 2008, Quilliam has argued that extremists cannot and should not publicly endorsed by ministers or government representatives – and that their views should instead be robustly challenged by government and by civil society. Quilliam has however also argued that a layered approach is needed and that some form of limited, non-empowering ‘engagement’ with extremists can sometimes be necessary to avert acts of violence or terrorism.
4. Tackling extremism on campus and in prisons. Quilliam produced a report last year on the problems of extremism on British univerity campuses and outlined ways in which such extremism could be tackled. In 2009 Quilliam also produced a report on radicalisation in British prisons and called for action to tackle this – as well as for measures to prevent extremists from working within the prison system.
6. Rejecting visa applications for hate-preachers from the UK. Quilliam has frequently campaigned for foreign hate-preachers to not be granted entry to the UK. For instance, it has supported the exclusion from the UK of the Qatar-based Islamist Yusuf al-Qaradawi and of the anti-Muslim US Christian pastor Terry Jones.
7. Clearer defence of human rights. Quilliam agrees with the government that a clearer defence of democratic values such as freedom of speech, religious freedom and equal rights for all, along with a clearer sense of national identity, is central to tackling extremism and building a more united and cohesive country.
Quilliam also welcomes the Prime Minister’s statement that Islamist extremism has a symbiotic relationship with far-right extremism, to which it is often directly comparable. It particularly endorses his statement that supporting extreme Islamists against terrorists can be ‘like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement’. The helpful analogy between extreme Islamism and far-right extremism, made by Quilliam in its publication ‘In defence of British Muslims: A response to BNP racist propaganda’, is useful for understanding the problems that Islamist extremists can pose and in drawing up government policies in response.
Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam stands for religious freedom, human rights, democracy and developing a Muslim identity at home in, and with, the West.