Extremism In Britain, And The Right Way To Fight It
England, where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 and which is regarded as the cradle of the constitution and democracy, has been the scene of various incidents incompatible with its traditions in recent years. Figures for recent years suggest negative signals for a country that promises understanding in the face of differences.
Hostility toward foreigners, racism and extreme right ideas are seriously on the rise in Britain. Crimes and violence committed for racist reasons have risen 10-fold in the last 10 years. A report drawn up indicates that racial violence is not limited to the streets, and that cases of racial harassment may even occur in the workplace. Examples of cases of racial harassment and violence cited in the report include violence against members of minorities and letters containing abusive language. According to the ‘European Commission against Racism and Intolerance’ affiliated to the Council of Europe, racism and discrimination against refugees and asylum applicants in particular still persists in Britain.
A bulletin published by the UK government on 13 October, 2015, recorded that there had been 52,528 hate crimes identified by the police in 2014/2015, an 18% rise from 44,471 in the previous year.
Acts of racist violence constitute 82% of hate crimes in Britain. There has been a 70% increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the last year in London alone. The nationwide ‘Tell Mama’ project in Britain places anti-Islamic activities under the microscope. It reports that 60% of incidents have been committed against fully covered Muslim women.
In short, some people with racist views and also groups with extreme rightist tendencies are targeting the Muslim minority in Britain.
The UK government is taking a variety of measures against this. One such involves the setting aside of 5 million pounds this year to build a national network including civil society in a struggle against ‘all forms of extremist ideology.’ Those funds will be handed out to groups that represent an alternative to the propaganda of groups described by the government as ‘dangerous.’ Expected measures include training in social media, the setting up of websites and support for specific projects. An ‘Extremism Analysis Unit’ will be set up within the body of the Interior Ministry (Home Office). Support in the fight against extremism will be provided for government bodies and the private sector through that unit. Local authorities will have increased powers to close down places thought to be supporting pro-extremist activities. In the same way, changes will be brought in to allow the radio and television regulator (OFCOM) to intervene against pro-extremist programs.
The UK government revealed the importance it attaches to measures against discrimination through a Hate Crime Action Plan Progress Report. According to the report, anti-Islamic attacks are strongly condemned by the government on every occasion, 24-hour police patrols are posted to certain high-risk areas, efforts are made to prevent hate crimes before they happen, and the anti-crime operational system is being expanded as the public hotline system is being strengthened.
The measures being taken against extreme right and racist groups will obviously be useful in preventing hate crimes. However, it is also very likely that the package that is prepared to prevent young Muslims joining radical groups will encourage discrimination against Muslims in society.
This package includes measures such as the banning of groups thought to be supporting the encouragement of hatred, the closure of places that foster radicals, including mosques, and OFCOM being given greater powers to take harsher measures against television and radio stations that are considered to encourage extremism. The Muslim Council of Britain, the largest Muslim civil society organization in the country, is critical of this measure, which is backed by Cameron. Dr. Shuja Shafi, its secretary general, has warned that these measures will increase discrimination against Muslims in Britain. Shafi has said that, “These measures could be seen more as a means to address the anxieties a minority of people may have against Muslims and their religious life, rather than the scourge of terrorism itself.”
Love and education, not police methods, have to be at the forefront of the fight against extremism. The exposure of superstitions and bigotry that had subsequently been added onto Islam, using scientific methods, can represent the first step on this path.
Citizens of a country that is the cradle of European democracy have to behave in a modern, civilized way. They must be free to espouse ideas they believe to be right, but they must not treat those who hold different views because of their lifestyles with hatred. They must not seek to put that hatred into action in order to do harm. Everyone must be freely able to express his opinions and criticisms, but he must not be allowed to impose his own ideas by force. Extremism always serves the ends of provocateurs and the enemies of ideas. People who wait in the shadows use such actions for their own ends, and may even organize them in person. Measures based on repression and hostility have always encouraged radicalism.
A warm, safe and prosperous country can only be built by putting right conflicts, disputes and disagreements among people. Every opportunity must be taken to explain that it is not naïve to encourage mutual aid, unity, love and compassion. Repression and hostility is never a solution. On the contrary, the damage it wreaks on society and the individual must be kept on the agenda through statistical data and appropriate examples. Only through such moderate methods can elements that breach the peace and lead to disorder, such as racism and extreme right-wing groups be eliminated.
In a world where the spiral of violence has been neutralized in this way, children will be able to play freely on the streets, women will be able to walk through even the darkest places without fear, and children will no longer be orphaned nor spouses widowed. The hundreds of millions of dollars spent on weapons and self-defense can then be spent on benefiting people instead, and scourges such as war, poverty, hunger and ignorance will no longer plague mankind. (Picture: Angel Torres - London, UK)