May Conf

May at the podium (PA Mediawire)

Home Secretary Theresa May outlined extensive plans to counter extremism in the UK, to protect ‘British values’ should the Conservatives win the election in 2015. 

In her speech, may stressed that “You don’t just get the freedom to live how you choose to live, you have to respect other people’s right to do so too, and you have to respect British values and institutions – the rule of law, democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities.. These are our values. There is no place for extremism here.”

During the conference, May stressed the need confront the Islamic extremist threat, warning that “We must confront segregation and sectarianism. We must face down extremism in all its forms.”

Some of the proposed measures to counter extremism were ‘extremism disruption orders (EDOs),banning orders, which would allow the authorities to outlaw extremist groups, and tougher surveillance powers, as their ability to obtain the data is declining “rapidly and dangerously” according to May.

She also highlighted the need to ensure that extremism isn’t allowed to fester on social media, because online extremism poses a threat as a propaganda tool by the Islamic State in particular. During the most recent Gaza conflict, online anti-Semitism also caused major concern, with hashtags such as #Hitlerwasright exposing the extremism of some online activists.

David Cameron outlined that ‘”We take down thousands of pages of extremist literature and videos from the internet – those gruesome, ghastly beheading videos, we take them down.”

May was clear that Muslims must have religious freedom, but highlighted the dangers associated with homegrown extremism. She said “Those extremists are dangerous but they are a small minority.”

“We know the overwhelming majority of British people want to be free – free from danger, free from fear, free from prejudice, free from discrimination, free to practise their religion, free to observe their cultures and traditions..

But, May also stressed that passports of 25 Britons seeking to travel to Syria had been removed and 103 people have been arrested, with 24 charged, due to terrorism offences in Syria.

There is a balance that needs to be struck between ensuring religious and cultural freedom whilst countering the extremist tendencies that may flourish with that freedom.