Rishi Sunak sets out ambitious plans to crack down on Islamist extremism

Rishi Sunak sets out ambitious plans to crack down on Islamist extremism
Courtesy: Finnbarr Webster / Stringer | Getty Images News Via Getty Images

Prime Ministerial candidate Rishi Sunak has pledged a crackdown on Islamist extremism with a widened government definition of extremism and strengthening existing terrorism legislation. The former Chancellor vowed to weed out organisations that promote extremism in the UK and refocus the “failing” Prevent programme, a government tool intended to tackle Islamist extremism.

Sunak said on the campaign trail this week: “There is no more important duty for a Prime Minister than keeping our country and our people safe.

“Whether redoubling our efforts to tackle Islamist extremism or rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country, I will do whatever it takes to fulfil that duty. Britain is a beacon of freedom, tolerance and diversity. We must never let those who seek to undermine and destroy our way of life to succeed.”

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The Ready4Rishi campaign team released details of what has been dubbed as “ambitious plans” to tackle Islamist extremism and protect the UK from terrorism.

“Rishi will refocus the failing Prevent programme onto the UK’s most significant terror threat – Islamist extremism and widen the government’s definition of extremism to encompass those who vilify our country,” the statement said.

“By far and away, the single largest terror threat to the UK’s national security is Islamist extremism, but the organisation tasked with preventing terrorism in the UK is failing on this front. Islamist extremists make up roughly 80 per cent of live counter-terrorism investigations and 68 per cent of all extremists in prison, but only 22 per cent of Prevent referrals and Channel cases. Rishi would reform the Prevent programme so that the profile of cases in the programme broadly reflects the terror threat posed to the UK,” the statement notes.

Sunak also plans to review how the Prevent programme can be linked more effectively with mental health services, to improve Prevent’s ability to differentiate between those with mental health problems and those with extreme world views.

Extremism is defined in the 2011 Prevent strategy as “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs" and "calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas”.

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Sunak in his campaign pledge notes that extremists do not just want to attack our values, but our very existence. Therefore, he intends to add "vilification of the United Kingdom" to the definition of extremism, making sure that those with an extreme hatred of the country that leads them to pose a risk to national security can be "identified and diverted away from a destructive path". This expanded definition is intended to help guide the public sector in its work to keep the UK safe.

The UK-born first-ever British Indian candidate in the race to be elected British Prime Minister next month also believes there have been too many examples of publicly funded charities and organisations accused of promoting extremist ideology in the UK.

“Rishi will conduct an audit of publicly funded third-party organisations – starting with those linked to the government’s anti-radicalisation work – to make sure no extremist organisation receives taxpayer money,” his campaign team said.

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