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  1. ITV Report

Counter-extremism strategy could 'drive a wedge' between communities, MPs warn

Ministers warn anti-extremism strategy could make the situation worse. Credit: Reuters

Ministers risk "driving a wedge" between communities with measures to fight extremism targeting religious conservatives, a report has warned.

A report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights said the government should reconsider the new anti-extremism strategy warning that it could make the situation worse.

It said the Prevent strategy, intended to steer young Muslims away from extremism, should be reviewed.

Committee chair Harriet Harman questioned whether applying measures specifically to Islamic religious conservatism is acceptable discrimination or would create a "justified grievance".

Harriet Harman said that ministers must guard against undermining relationships with Muslim communities. Credit: PA

The most precious asset in the fight against terrorism is the relationship between the authorities and the Muslim communities of this country.

We must guard against any undermining of the relationship between the authorities and Muslim communities, which would make the fight against terrorism even harder.

The difficulty around these issues should lead the Government to tread with great care, for fear of making the situation worse, not better.

– Committee chair Harriet Harman

The committee found that the proposals assumed an "escalator" of radicalisation which could be tackled by imposing restrictions on religious conservatives.

It said that there was no proof or agreement that radicalisation begins with religious conservatism and ends with support for violent jihadism.

It also raised concerns about proposals for universities to prevent the expression of extremist views, stating: "We believe that free speech is precious, particularly in universities, and should not be undermined."