Following the UK general election, Cameron’s Conservative party achieved a majority and is now the sole ruling party. Previously, Britain was governed by a coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Cameron and his cabinet have been quick to speak out about policies that were dampened down or kept on the back burner under the coalition. This new counter-extremism bill would have been unlikely to secure the backing of the Liberals.
The new bill is expected to include new immigration rules, powers to close down premises used by extremists and "extremism disruption orders." The measures are also expected to introduce banning orders for extremist organizations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of it being proscribed as a terror group.
In addition, there has been much speculation, which has not been denied by the government, that the UK will scrap its Human Rights Act. It is possible that the new counter-extremism bill will replace this, and there is likely to be opposition from parliament that the bill could infringe on people’s right to free speech.
Furthermore, Home Secretary Theresa May has proposed returning migrants rescued from the Mediterranean to their home countries. This perilous journey has killed thousands in the last year, and placed a huge burden on the region’s rescue operations.
May was unable to secure the backing of the Liberals for such a measure, but now it’s expected to be passed.
It’s clear the new all-Conservative government is standing up to extremism and the problems encountered along both UK and EU borders. As Cameron said on Wednesday, this “poisonous extremist ideology must be confronted." Indeed, it must, but is the heavy-handed approach the right one? It is a dangerous game to play in a country that is already at odds with the government over privacy laws and human rights, and where Islamophobia is becoming as much, if not more, of a breeding ground for hate crimes as is Islamic extremism.
The primary reason for youth becoming radicalized in the UK is a feeling of disenchantment – of being disappointed with the country and of not belonging. If the new counter-extremism bill comes down too heavy on groups, organizations, premises and individuals seen by many UK citizens, especially the Muslim community, to be harmless, then this will only fuel radicalization and extremism. If young Muslims feel that their every move is being monitored and that they are not allowed a voice, how will this help rid the UK of extremism?
So, the government must be firm, but it also needs to move cautiously with the full backing and support of leading UK Muslim groups and communities to tackle the causes and not only the symptoms of extremism. A dictatorial “us and them” approach will not only fail, it will escalate the problem to such a degree that a civil war environment could result.
May told BBC Radio 4 the government wants to "bring people together to ensure we are living together as one society."
"What we are proposing is a bill which will have certain measures within it, measures such as introducing banning orders for groups and disruption orders for individuals, for those who are out there actively trying to promote this hatred and intolerance which can lead to division in our society and undermines our British values," May said.
"But," she added, "it will be part of a bigger picture , a strategy which will also have as a key part of it actually promoting our British values, our values of democracy, rule of law, tolerance and acceptance of different faiths."
The measures, she added, will focus on "extremism of all sorts … that is seeking to promote hatred, that is seeking to divide our society, that is seeking to undermine the very values that make us a great country to live in."
The granting of a ban, which would be subject to immediate review by the High Court, would make membership or funding of an extremist organization a criminal offense.
The extreme disruption orders could be imposed on individuals, using the same criteria.