Proposals set out today by Theresa May – to be included in the Tory election manifesto – represent a xenophobic assault on the Muslim community that have little relationship to the alleged fight against terrorism.
They include plans for a review of Shariah councils in England and Wales to examine whether they are compatible with British values, banning orders for groups which do not reach the current threshold to be banned as extremists and civil “extremism disruption orders” similar to ASBOS to be used against individuals.
The Conservative Party also intends to initiate a review of supplementary schools, which are currently unregulated, ostensibly to “protect children from extremists”.
IHRC is alarmed by the intention to curtail the fundamental rights of Muslims in Britain under the pretext of combating extremism and terrorism. The proposals will add to a growing body of highly oppressive laws and policies introduced in recent years – since 1997 successive governments have enacted at least eight pieces of primary legislation – that have principally targeted Muslims and approached them collectively from the standpoint that they are potential extremists and therefore a security threat.
IHRC condemns in the strongest possible terms the Tory Party’s relentless attack on Muslim values that is now finding expression as a campaigning issue in the forthcoming general election. We note that one of the measures outlined today – banning so-called hate preachers – was vetoed last week by Lib-Dem coalition partners on the grounds that it would infringe universities’ right to promote free speech.
We are worried that the already latitudinous definition of extremism will be extended to apply to people simply because they hold conservative values or beliefs that are inconsistent with those of the majority.
In a recent letter to Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg urging him to rein in the Tories’ plans, IHRC called the proposal to review Islamic religious adjudication councils discriminatory because it applied only to the Muslim community. In focussing on shariah councils the government seems to be accepting and perpetuating tropes about Islam being a misogynistic religion. For decades now in the UK, Jewish women have struggled to obtain divorces from rabbanical courts in cases where their husbands have refused to grant them a get (divorce) yet there has never been any suggestion that those courts should be made subject to state oversight.
We also view plans to institute oversight of Muslim supplementary schools as an insidious attempt to smuggle the government’s anti-radicalisation PREVENT agenda into Muslim schooling with the ultimate aim of controlling what is being taught.
IHRC chair Massoud Shadjareh said: “Nobody will be fooled by the Home Secretary’s claims that these measures are designed to tackle extremism. They are a shameless expression of a hate and bigotry that is increasingly becoming normalised in Britain. Indeed it speaks volumes that Theresa May cannot see how her proposals represent an affront to the fundamental values of tolerance and equality.”
Notes to editors
IHRC’s letter of 12 March to Nick Clegg can be viewed in full at https://ihrc.org.uk/activities/campaigns/11382-a-letter-to-nick-clegg-regarding-the-governments-proposed-new-plans-to-combat-islamic-extremism
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IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
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Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222