The new counter-extremism legislation, titled Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill, proposed by the prime minister of the UK, David Cameron, has been widely criticized by a diverse coalition of civil society organizations and security personnel, who fear that if implemented, the bill can have a rather negative backlash as instead of curtailing extremism it might fuel it instead.
On May 22, 2016 over 135 of UK´s most powerful civil rights organizations led by the British Institute of Human Rights and Amnesty International UK, signed a joint statement which emphasized that counter terrorism strategies need to be in accordance with the British values of liberal rights and freedoms. The group posited that instead, the newly proposed bill is driven not by those values, but by fear, which in turn can have more harmful long term consequences.
The statement was preceded by a Human Rights Pledge, which was a protest against government´s plans to replace the Human Rights act with a new Bill of Rights, which if passes, is believed will challenge the universality of the individual human rights.
The counter extremism bill will give the UK government powers to ban “extremist” organizations and suppress individuals who are accused of promoting hatred. However, while aimed at curtailing extremism, the reality is that the bill might in practice further marginalization of Muslims, as according to civil rights organizations, the broadness of the bill´s diction is threatening to multiculturalism.
Although the swift actions taken by the group of most prominent civil rights organizations as mentioned above are impressive and have raised awareness about the implications of the bill, the voice of one individual in particular has arguably been far more influential. This individual is Sir Peter Fahy, ex chief constable of the Greater Manchester area and the former policing lead for the Prevent program, which is a central branch of the government´s counter-terrorism strategy. Sir Peter Fahy has dedicated his life to the security and safety of his society thus his concerns about the effectiveness and the consequences of the bill are valuable. In his statement, directed at the prime minister, the ex police chief posited, “These proposals [made by David Cameron] 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.”
Club de Madrid´s Global Consensus, outlined in 10 goals, specifies that the security measures taken by political leaders should be “lawful, balanced, and foster peaceful and cohesive societies in the long run”. The strong opposition against David Cameron´s security measures, suggests that this kind of counter extremist policy can in fact do more harm than good in the long run. A marginalized society cannot be peaceful, and banning a concept which lacks a clear definition, such as ‘extremism’, can open a Pandora’s Box dangerous for the integrity of a liberal democracy.