The British government is set to unveil plans for wide-ranging measures aimed at countering "extremism" in the country — including proposed restrictions on Islamic Sharia courts, monitoring of potentially radicalized individuals and requirements for immigrants to learn the English language and absorb “British values” — according to a government report seen and described by The Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
The Home Office report, which is reportedly due out later this month and includes a foreword from Home Secretary Theresa May, is said to be aimed at broadening the department’s powers to address not just extremist violence but also hate speech and other “radical” ideology that may be a precursor to violence.
News of the report comes the week after British-Kuwaiti citizen Mohammed Emwazi was revealed to be “Jihadi John,” the nickname for the English-speaking executioner in many of the videotaped beheadings carried out by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Emwazi, 26, may have become radicalized while an information technology student at Westminster University — amplifying fears that “extremism” was flourishing in unlikely places.
The newspaper said the report expresses particular concern over the issue of “entryism,” an alleged phenomenon whereby individuals with extreme views infiltrate university campuses as well as local government councils, student organizations and other bodies of influence to spread their views. The Telegraph did not specify exactly how the Home Office planned to crack down on entryism.
As quoted by the Telegraph, the report says that “in the past, there has been a risk that the Government sends an ambivalent and dangerous message — that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t believe in democracy.”
“We need to stand up and be more assertive in promoting our values and challenging the extremists who fundamentally oppose them,” it reportedly added. “This will include explaining our foreign policy [and] promoting mainstream voices supporting the quiet majority in all communities who oppose extremism.”
Proposed new restrictions on citizenship would mandate that applicants “prove adherence to British values and active participation in society,” the report was cited as saying. Similar possible requirements would apply to visitors in the country, with “British values” becoming “an integral part of applying for a visa.” It was not immediately clear what that would entail, but the report noted that institutions with track records of promoting “extremist” views would be barred from sponsoring visas.
The Home Office also reportedly takes aim at Sharia courts, which some Muslims in the United Kingdom use to settle disputes. The Telegraph quoted the report as saying that London is “concerned about the way sharia councils are working in some parts of the country,” citing “troubling reports that in some areas women have suffered from the way these councils work, either through forced marriage or discriminatory divorce proceedings.”
The release of the Home Office's new measures has reportedly been delayed for months, the Telegraph said, due to an internal debate about how strongly to word its recommendations. Previous steps taken by the U.K. to curb the spread of “extremism” have been criticized as alarmist and counterproductive. One recent proposal called for educators — from preschool teachers to university professors — to assess their students for vulnerability to dangerous ideas and report them to authorities.