Extremism is a blight on any society in which it flourishes. It divides people from each other and promotes hostility.
At its most serious, extremism is a pathway to violent extremism.
In the UK we have suffered seriously from violent Islamist extremism, for example the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the Manchester Arena attack and the London Bridge attack. We have also suffered from violent far-right extremism, for example with the murder of Jo Cox MP. Extreme far-right and homophobic attitudes motivated the London nail bomber David Copland.
Counter-terrorist policing work is of course vital to protect us from violent extremism. However, it is not enough. We must tackle extremism itself, to reduce the number of Britons who are infected by it.
This has repeatedly been emphasised by our political leaders, for example David Cameron’s speeches in Munich and Birmingham, and Theresa May’s March 2015 speech.
In passing, I get very annoyed with people who play with words by pointing out that being extremely charitable (for example) is a good thing. They commit the etymological fallacy. “Extremism” is a word which has its own meaning, and extremism is always bad.
The Commission for Countering Extremism is a non-statutory expert committee of the Home Office. It operates independently, at arm’s length from government.
The CCE supports society to fight all forms of extremism. It advises the government on new policies to deal with extremism, including the need for any new powers.
The Lead Commissioner is Sara Khan. I have met her on many occasions over the years and broadly support her concerns about Islamist extremism. This website has a review of her book "The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism" by Sara Khan with Tony McMahon.
The purpose of the Expert Group is to provide the Lead Commissioner with constructive advice and challenge in her first 12 months of the Commission.
The government website lists the members of the Expert Group. Over the years, I have got to know the ones listed below, and regard them as very sensible people:
My silence regarding the other members of the Expert Group should not be regarded as critical. It is simply that I do not know them yet.
The CCE is carrying out a public consultation. The deadline for responding is 23:45 on 31 January 2019.
I responded myself earlier this week and strongly encourage everyone who cares about the harm that extremism is causing our country to respond. See the link in the previous paragraph.
I am publishing the full text of my response. However, I strongly encourage people to send in their own responses before reading mine, as I do not wish to influence the responses of others.
My sole exception to the previous sentiment is to share below the response that I gave to the final question in the consultation.
Britain is a country in which being British is not defined by your race or your religion. Instead, it is defined by your willingness to adhere to the shared values of our society. These are not repeated here as they have often been spelled out by the Government.
As a consequence, what makes Britain a wonderful country to live in, regardless of your race or your religion, is that in Britain you are free to practice your religion as you wish subject to not infringing the rights of other people. In Britain, you are free to maintain your culture, including how you dress and how you eat, the types of music you like etc. in a way that very few other countries allow.
In Britain, you are free to marry within your ethnic or religious group, or to marry outside it, and the state will not interfere.
Britain cares very strongly about discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, or any of the other legally defined characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010.
All of this makes Britain an ideal country in which people can flourish.