Chief Rabbi Mirvis, the CST and the Board of Deputies president have backed findings of a report into the failure of counter-extremism policies, amid calls for new laws to tackle the scourge.
The failure to effectively tackle extremism is creating an “ever-bigger pool” from which terrorist groups can recruit, an official watchdog has warned.
The Commission for Countering Extremism said the “gaping chasm” in existing legislation means many groups – from radical Islamists to far-right neo-Nazis – are able to operate with impunity.
It called on ministers to outlaw the “praising and glorifying” of terrorists and their actions as part of a new legal framework for dealing with the issue.
The findings were backed by faith leaders, including the the Chief Rabbi, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the chair of Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, as well as former prime ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron.
Mark Gardener, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust, said: “Hateful extremism poses a significant and enduring threat to our communities, and the Commission’s report makes a compelling case that existing legislation is not capable of addressing the problem. This is especially the case when it comes to online incitement on extremist social media channels, which is completely out of control. There is an urgent need for new legislation to fill this gap.”
Welcoming the findings, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl said: “This report lays bare the shocking reality that Neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists are at liberty to encourage terrorist attacks and stir up racial hatred, so long as they follow certain loopholes in the law.”
We also commend the Commission’s exposé of platforms such as Gab, Parler and Telegram who facilitate the spread of far-right propaganda, and of toxic groups such as CAGE, whose senior leaders have advocated supporting violent jihad overseas.”
This cannot be allowed to continue and we welcome the Commission’s recommendations to government, which should be implemented with urgency.”
The commission – which was established in the wake of the 2017 London Bridge attacks – said current legislation was focused on dealing with the threat of terrorism. However it meant that much extremist activity – so long as it did not cross a certain threshold – was not covered by the law.
It highlighted the case of the hate preacher Anjem Choudary, and online extremist messaging boards which glorified figures such as far-right terrorists Anders Breivik, Brenton Tarrant and Thomas Mair.
It also meant that collecting IS beheading videos or forming neo-Nazi groups which praised Adolf Hitler and encouraged Holocaust denial was not illegal as long as it was not threatening, abusive or insulting.
Former assistant commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, the ex-national police lead on counter-terrorism who helped draw up the commission’s report, said the scale and nature of the material that was freely available was “quite extraordinary”.
“During the course of conducting this review, I have been shocked and horrified by the ghastliness and volume of hateful extremist materials and behaviour which is lawful in Britain,” he said.
“Not only have our laws failed to keep pace with the evolving threat of modern-day extremism, current legal boundaries allow extremists to operate with impunity.
“Hateful extremism is creating an ever-bigger pool for terrorists to recruit from, as well as increasing violence, hate crime and tensions between and within communities. The current situation is simply untenable.”
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