Gary Mond: Election 2024 has to be turning point in dealing with extremism in the UK

Election 2024 has to be turning point in dealing with extremism in the UK

By Gary Mond, Chairman of the National Jewish Assembly

 

As we approach the general election on 4 July, political commentators will attempt to focus on the key issues which will determine the success or otherwise of the main political parties.

Such issues will not necessarily be those areas of policy that are important, but rather those where there is a crystal clear difference between the ideas of the main contesting campaigns.

In these early days of the battle, it seems that tax, immigration, lowering the voting age to 16 and some aspects of foreign policy (e.g. recognising a Palestinian state) might feature.

One important issue that probably will not feature at all is the different approaches (to the extent they even exist) of how to deal with political extremism.

There is, after all, no real consensus as to what it is. One basic assumption is that, for views to be politically extreme, they are only held by a small minority of the public.

For example, it appears that the pressure group Hope Not Hate consider opposition to high levels of immigration to be extreme.

Yet concerns about this are held by a substantial minority of voters, and maybe even a majority.

On the other hand, others believe that extreme Jew hatred is caused by the regular pro Palestinian Saturday marches – a view I would support,.

Topics where there is a possibility of labelling views extremist are many and varied.

They include abortion, the Royal Family, vaccinations, climate change and religion, to name but a few.

Additionally, there is a debate about whether some political parties are themselves extremist, both on the left and on the right.

With there being a multitude of views, a responsible government needs to develop principles as to the types of political extremism that need to be addressed.

I would argue that what matters is not so much the views themselves, but rather the consequences of those views being propounded.

The key issue is whether the views are a direct cause of violence as a result of the creation of hatred.

If they are, then governments should take action, either by enforcing existing laws if they exist, or creating new ones if they do not.

Alternatively if the views, however unpleasant they may be to some, cannot be linked with hate and violence, then in the free society in which we live they absolutely must be tolerated without interference. Having set out the big picture, where then is action needed?

The single most worrying example of extremism, sometimes defended as an aspect of religion, is the hatred of Jews, and sometimes Christians, that has emanated from preachers at some mosques in the UK.

If there are clear examples of this which can be proven, then those mosques should be shut down immediately. Anyone preaching hate should be arrested and charged.

The wellbeing of our socially, racially and religiously mixed society requires nothing less.

A more complicated situation might arise when considering political parties and activists from the far right.

The content of their speeches needs to be studied. Is it stirring up racial or religious hatred?

Against this, another factor to consider is whether the statements, if factual, are actually truthful.

Suppose a far right group – or anyone else for that matter – publicises the fact that a Henry Jackson Society survey found that 46% of British Muslims support Hamas.

Would that be stirring up violence and hatred? I would argue not.

On the other hand, a directly insulting reference to Muslims generally – or to an individual Muslim citing his or her Muslimness – certainly would.

In conclusion, it is always necessary to consider the words used, and their likely consequences for the cohesion of our civilisation.

 

This article was originally published by GB News on 5 June 2024.

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