OPINION: Home Office has IGNORED police plea to tackle ‘jihad’ street extremism for almost THREE years

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OPINION: Home Office has IGNORED police plea to tackle ‘jihad’ street extremism for almost THREE years

Investigate journalist John Ware reveals the Home Office was urged back in February 2021 by Met chief Mark Rowley to deal with the anomaly that allows extremists to scream 'jihad' on our streets. It's been sidelined ever since

Imagine being the Met Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley today as he gets a dressing down from the Home Secretary about why his officers didn’t arrest a member of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir chanting “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad” during Saturday’s pro-Palestinian demonstration. Next to the man was a banner saying “Muslim Armies.”

The Met and the CPS have both said the law was not broken.

Rowley could be forgiven for wanting to tell Suella Braverman to get the hell out of his office. And to curse her predecessor Priti Patel on Braverman’s way out. And, for that matter, the immigration minister Robert Jenrick who’s also complained that what Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) did “needs tackling with the full force of the law.”

Well, indeed, so why wasn’t it?

The question is especially pertinent because in February 2021 – two and a half years ago – at the then Counter Extremism Commissioner Dame Sara’s request, she and Rowley co-authored a report which addressed precisely this question.

It was called “Operating with Impunity.”

All 126 forensically researched pages were directed at organisations and individuals like HuT who deliberately  stay just on the right side of the law, but who also foster a climate conducive to radicalisation, and who fundamentally oppose democracy.

Suella Braverman

Which is exactly what the HuT bloke was doing when he ranted to fellow Muslims: “What is the solution to liberate people in the concentration camp called Palestine?” provoking the war cry: “Jihad, Jihad, Jihad.”

The Khan-Rowley report argued the need for a legal framework that could fill the lacuna that prevents either criminal or even civil regulatory action against hateful extremists. It was also aimed at giving legal clarity to the kind of situation that confronted the Met on Saturday.

HuT are still operating in several cities and have never been proscribed because they aren’t directly engaged in terrorism.

The response to Khan and Rowley from Messrs Patel and Braverman? Nothing. Not a peep from either Home Secretary, nor  from their officials.

Not even a note thanking them for three years’ worth of work – which had dared to venture into territory government lawyers with wet towels round their heads had given up on after David Cameron’s 2015 Counter Extremism bill  kicked off a much needed debate about how to define non-violent extremism and how the law might be used to curtail it.

John Ware.

Khan and Rowley gave plenty of examples of hateful extremist activity that’s currently legal, like praising the actions and ideology of terrorists, sharing violent sermons and beheading videos online, circulating inflammatory pamphlets which promote false claims intended to stir up hatred against an ethnic or religious community, organisations who routinely espouse Islamist or Far Right extremist ideology.

Six months ago, Sir John Saunders, who chaired the inquiry in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing also urged the government to get on with a response to the Khan-Rowley report: “I recommend that such consideration be given as a matter of urgency.”

Again, nothing has happened.

The ex-Met assistant commissioner Neil Basu, who was also Britain’s leading counter-terrorism officer has accused the government of failing to act, despite being warned of the long-term dangers to social cohesion in this country. “Your eyes were opened to the glaring anomaly in the law,” he said. “You did not take it up at the time and it is worth revisiting. The report from the commission for countering extremism in 2021 pointed out a series of gaps in the law.”

Number Ten aren’t blameless here either. I understand its Policy Unit also opposed the Khan-Rowley recommendations. “There’s a particularly strong libertarian wing inside Number 10,” a government source told me. “They just didn’t want to go down the legal route whatsoever. Freedom of speech at all costs – but there’s damage both in the short and long term from groups like HuT unfortunately.”

Instead, the Home Office has for years relied on its Disruptions Unit to try to make life difficult for non-violent extremist groups like HuT by, for example, urging local authorities to refuse venue booking requests. “The thinking is: ‘Oh, let’s just try and curtail their activities even though they’re lawful,” said the source. “It’s completely hypocritical. It’s also Whack amole.”

Dame Sara said she’d been “saddened to see the kind of HuT activity this Saturday, go unpunished. We didn’t have to see those scenes. They were exactly the kind of thing that Mark Rowley and I and were trying to prevent.”

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