ARTICLE 19 has come together with a diverse and unique coalition of civil society groups and leading figures have to highlight serious concerns about the government’s proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill.
We are a cross section of British society who believe in the necessity of keeping our nation safe and secure.
To defeat the scourge of terrorism we need a strategy underpinned by a soaring confidence in our values and the society we seek to build together. As such, we are gravely concerned that the proposed Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will feed the very commodity that the terrorists thrive on: fear. We must instead put forward proposals that show those who seek to undermine us that we value our freedom more than they cherish fear.
Terrorism in all its forms is already prohibited by the criminal law, as is speech that incites violence or promotes hatred. This Bill would provide the Government with the power to exclude those they disagree with from many parts of the public space. These proposals will serve to alienate communities and undermine free speech, but there is scant evidence that they will tackle the terrorism we all want to confront.
The fact that the Government is struggling to define the ‘extremism’ it wants to ban should be a clear indication that this legislation has no place in a liberal democracy.
As a nation, we not only tolerate diversity but celebrate it. And when we differ, our values of liberty and respect underpin how we respond: through discussion and disagreement, not prohibition and exclusion.
When ideas are not violent or do not incite violence we do not ban or censor them, however insulting they might be to our norms as a society.
We believe that our universal values, which have developed through generations, can withstand the challenges we face today.
Let us create open spaces for debate and let it be through freedom that we defeat those who wish to divide us. We call for an evidence-based counter-terrorism strategy that proudly promotes our values, and offers a strong and principled alternative to the narrative of intolerance and fear.
The Muslim Council of Britain
Rights Watch (UK)
Index on Censorship
The Jewish Council for Racial Equality
National Secular Society
Operation Black Vote
Stand up to Racism
British Institute of Human Rights
Big Brother Watch
Peter Oborne, Journalist