UK
04/12/2013 16:25 GMT | Updated 04/12/2013 16:31 GMT

Extremism Crackdown 'Stigmatises Muslims'

PA
Extremism crackdown

The government has been warned against "stigmatising" Muslims after announcing a new crackdown on extremism.

Ministers want to hand out asbos to dangerous radicals, use Muslim chaplains to challenge extremists at university campuses and filter internet content.

They are also drawing up powers to outlaw hate preachers like Anjem Choudary.

The new strategy also sets out for the first time a definition of Islamic radicalism, to separate it from traditional religion.

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The Extremism Task Force was set up in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May.

Under the proposals, asbo-like Terror and Extremist Behaviour Orders would be used on people suspected of radicalising others.

Islamophobia expert Chris Allen from Birmingham University told The Independent: “The more the lens is turned on the Muslim community, the more society begins to think, ‘There’s no smoke without fire’.”

Extremism expert Imran Awan, of Birmingham City University, said there was a "fine line" between controlling online material and a heavy-handed assault on civil liberty.

He added: "Accordingly, the UK government's new taskforce must ensure that it does not label all Muslims as potential targets, because this will only further stigmatise and marginalise Muslim communities in the UK.

"While terrorist attacks remain a concern, we should not give up our civil liberties for such protections. There is also a real danger measures such as the Terror and Extremism Behaviour Order will only act like an ASBO and risks stereotyping Muslim communities."

And civil liberties campaigners warned against driving the likes of hate preacher Anjem Choudary underground.

Isabella Sankey, director of policy, said: “The horrific murders of Lee Rigby and Mohammed Saleem underline the importance of confronting ugly ideologies across the spectrum.

“But driving those who despise diversity further underground does nothing to expose their beliefs and only acts as another recruitment tool.

“You cannot protect our democracy by shutting down the very freedoms that sustain it.”

In a written ministerial statement, Home Secretary Theresa May said the government was working with leading internet companies to restrict terrorist material online and make it easier for the public to report extremist content.