OPINION: The poison of extremism on our streets must be finally rooted out

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OPINION: The poison of extremism on our streets must be finally rooted out

Rishi Sunak was right to warn of the ‘poison’ of extremism in his Downing Street speech last week, following the Rochdale by-election and the ceasefire vote debacle a week earlier

Jeremy Havardi is a freelance journalist and author

Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in London.
Hizb ut-Tahrir rally in London.

The last five months has seen a surge in extremist behaviour that is quite unprecedented in modern times, with the UK’s Jewish community bearing the brunt. The CST’s figures indicate a huge spike in antisemitic incidents since 7th October, something mirrored in hate crimes faced by Muslims. The nearly 2,700 incidents that occurred after 7 October have been described as ‘a watershed moment for antisemitism in the UK’.

None of this has come in a vacuum. Since ‘Black Shabbat’, the day when members of a genocidal death cult carried out a murderous wave of violence in Israel, the streets of London have witnessed weekly carnivals of hatred.

They have featured repeated calls for jihad, chants to eradicate Israel and genocidal slogans beamed onto Big Ben. This cacophony of intimidation and bigotry has turned parts of our capital into no-go areas for British Jews, and others. Jewish pupils have also been targeted by this wave of prejudice, with a tripling of antisemitic incidents, according to the CST.

The first major rally on our streets was organised while Hamas terrorists was still inside Israel, continuing its violent rampage

What gives the lie to the idea that this tidal wave of hatred was a response to Israel’s aggression was that the biggest spike in racist attacks came in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, prior to a ground invasion.

The first major rally on our streets was organised while Hamas terrorists was still inside Israel, continuing its violent rampage. Many of those who organised the protest rallies were doing so either to celebrate the attacks, including three women who wore ‘paraglider’ stickers, or to whitewash Hamas’ crimes.

House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP

Such extremism has metastasised into incendiary attacks on MPs. Following the furore over his handling of the ceasefire debate, Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said that he did not want to pick up a phone to find an MP had been murdered by terrorists, citing “absolutely frightening” threats.

He may have been thinking of Mike Freer, a well-known defender of Israel, who has been forced to step down due to intimidation, as well as the fatal assault on Sir David Amess by an Islamist extremist. Recently, Tory MP James Grundy, MP for Leigh, told the Commons that his parents were threatened with death following an opposition day debate while the office of shadow Welsh Secretary, Jo Stevens, was daubed in red paint after she abstained on a ceasefire vote.

Within this context, the spectre of Islamist intolerance is particularly chilling. It was recently revealed that the Charity Commission was examining a series of ‘repugnant’ sermons held in British mosques since 7th October.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak giving a press conference in Downing Street.

One imam at Leyton’s Tawhid Mosque reportedly claimed that the victims of the Supernova attack were “killed by their own people”, echoing the absurd conspiracy theory put about by the suspended Labour candidate for Rochdale, Azhar Ali.

During a sermon held in a mosque in Manchester, there was an alleged call for that mosque to be freed from “dirty, usurping and aggressing Zionists” while a preacher at a Birmingham mosque called for Jews to be killed. There are many other examples cited of such incendiary and dehumanising rhetoric, all of which paint a disturbing picture of support for Hamas terror.

Jeremy Havardi

A number of things are vital now. Firstly, Parliament cannot be cowed by anti-Israel thugs. While security for MPs is essential, it is equally important for political business to continue as normal and not appear as if it is at the mercy of an intolerant minority.

Islamist preachers of hate should face the full force of the law, as should any people that incite violence or disorder. While calls to ban marches will seem draconian, there is surely an argument for limiting their frequency, duration and location. The government should also address the deep concerns about the Prevent programme identified recently by Sir William Shawcross.

The shadow of Hamas’ war against Israel has been felt on our streets, in our schools and within the halls of power. This ghastly spectre must be reversed through action, not words.

  • Dr Jeremy Havardi is a cultural historian and director of the B’nai B’rith UK Bureau of International Affairs
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