Demos Responds to the Government’s Extremism Bill

While few would disagree that extremism should be confronted, we must remember that it is a feature of democracy, not a flaw, that it allows people to oppose the fundamental values of a country. There are a number of concerning elements to the Government’s counter-extremism proposals. They are based around policing a very vague definition of ‘British Values’, and have the potential to threaten the basic principles of freedom of speech and protest. These are two fundamental rights that should in fact stand at the heart of our society. Moreover, there is no clear evidence that this approach will necessarily be effective.

Demos’ research has shown that outlawing extremism can serve to heighten its appeal. While the law has a strong role to play, for example in preventing incitement to violence, it should not overwhelm the individual responsibility we also share as citizens to ensure our communities are peaceful and cohesive. The Government may find that efforts to create a more integrated society, which promotes economic and social inclusion, could – in the long-term – go further towards preventing extremism than simply punitive measures.

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