The Government’s Extremism Task Force will be releasing its forward plan of action today, (4/12/13). The plan of action is unique in the sense that it supports the calls that we made within TELL MAMA where extremists promoting hate incidents and crimes should be dealt with through systems that highlight and tackle the actions of such extremists. Furthermore, Faith Matters, (our parent not-for-profit organisation), worked on building the capacity of institutions and organisations to recruit chaplains who can provide pastoral care in bodies like courts, hospitals, prison services, further education and higher education institutions. This work can be found here and here.

We understand that any Government is under a duty to tackle extremism and to do so with an eye on balancing civil liberties whilst ensuring that specific communities are not labelled or prejudicially highlighted in the actions taken. We believe that this Government has tried to do so with this forward plan and set of recommendations and has been far more balanced and nuanced in its approach to tackling extremism than previous Governments. This should be welcomed and a great deal of time and resource has been spent finding that right balance and for that, we must commend this Government.

We feel that highlighting this is important given the Independent’s article that has been posted today. We are aware that any Government drive on tackling extremism, whether nuanced, sensitive or not, will unfortunately confirm in the minds of some people a strong association between all Muslims and extremism / terrorism. This was the point that we were making with the Independent. Through our work within Faith Matters and TELL MAMA, we have seen this time and time again, that some people will make that automatic assumption irrespective of how sensitively a public document is put together.

We also made clear to the Independent that any public discussion on matters of extremism lead to a rise in anti-Muslim discourse on-line. Once again, we have seen this on numerous occasions and sadly this confirms the automatic association of extremism and terrorism to Muslim communities. In the conversation, we also stated that extra staffing resources will be available today to take care of reports coming mainly on-line as the chatter begins on the back of the public release of the Government document. Does this mean that the Government should water down or block such a release, our response is no. Does this mean that a very forceful response should be taken by the Government to Muslims – clearly not, since it will merely re-enforce extremist narratives and raise tensions levels.

We feel that this matter needed clarifying since we welcome the position that the Government has taken, whilst flagging up a potential rise in incoming reports as some people on-line specifically talk about Muslims in prejudicial tones and statements. As stated before, this Government has taken a well-informed and nuanced position than previous Governments. This is to be welcomed, though there is a great deal of work to be done in pushing back the anti-Muslim prejudice that rears itself when extremism or terrorism are discussed. Part of the blame lies on those who promote such hate and prejudice and on individuals like Anjem Choudhary and groups like Al-Muhajiroun. They and far right groups are a menace to communities that we all need to tackle.

We also released the following Press Release yesterday evening:

Faith Matters, which runs the national Islamophobia monitoring project, TELL MAMA, welcomes the report from the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism. The paper which was pre-released today, (03/12/13), clearly sets a framework of distinction as to what extremist ideology is, and how it differs from traditional religious practice.

The document also confirms the findings of Faith Matters and the TELL MAMA project by reviewing whether there is a case for new civil powers, akin to new anti-social behaviour powers against extremists who radicalise others in specific locations. Faith Matters has been at the forefront of pushing these proposals for individuals like Anjem Choudhary as well as against Far Right English Defence League agitators.

Speaking on the report the Director of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal OBE, said:

“For the last two years we have called on the Home Office and ACPO to take action on those Islamophobic hate crimes that we were reporting in where the perpetrator was clearly exhibiting extremist Far Right tendencies. Nothing was done and we had to simply report the incident like any other. We hope that by the Extremism Task Force acknowledging this, this will change and quickly.”

“We also welcome the use of chaplains in the fight against extremism. We were involved in the production of guidance documents for roles involving the recruitment of chaplains in the courts, prison services, hospitals and further and higher education institutions. This is another acknowledgement of the integral role they play in pastoral care and in being a resource against extremism within institutions.”