UK government prepares crackdown on political opposition with new “extremism” de…

The British government is broadening its definition of “extremism”. On Sunday, the Observer revealed that Communities Secretary Michael Gove is close to finalising a review of “non-violent extremism” which began in spring this year.

According to the newspaper, which has not released the full document, extremism will be defined as “the promotion or advancement of any ideology which aims to overturn or undermine the UK’s system of parliamentary democracy, its institutions and values” or to “threaten the rights of individuals or create a permissive environment for radicalisation, hate crime and terrorism”.

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Downing Street, January 16, 2023 [Photo by Rory Arnold/No 10 Downing Street / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

It will also include, “Sustained support for, or continued uncritical association with organisations or individuals who are exhibiting extremist behaviours.”

The existing definition of extremism is “active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”. This was published in 2011 as part of the antidemocratic “Prevent” strategy, enforced in schools and throughout the public sector under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, and used to demonise Muslims in particular.

Every year, thousands of people are referred to Prevent, a total of 6,406 in the 12 months to March 2022, a 30 percent increase on the previous year.

In the document’s own words, the new definition broadens the focus from “active opposition” to so-called “British values” to “behaviours that enable the spread of extremist ideology.”

This is a deeply authoritarian definition, providing a pretext for the suppression of virtually any form of political opposition and eviscerating the rights to free speech and political association.

The Observer reports that one document “lists a number of organisations which it considers would be ‘captured’ by the new definition.” Among them are “The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Palestine Action and Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development).” Palestine Action has helped to organise numerous protests in recent years against Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians, including during the ongoing genocidal assault on Gaza.