UK PM contender and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak on Wednesday said he will crack down on Islamist extremism if voted to power.
Sunak on Wednesday said he would bring necessary reforms to the Prevent programme.
The Prevent programme is a UK government strategy aimed at reducing the threat to the UK from terrorism, by stopping people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism.
The MP from Richmond (Yorks) said he will refocus the ‘failing’ Prevent strategy onto Islamic extremism, which he said is the UK’s most significant terror threat.
“I will crack down on Islamist extremism. Whether redoubling our efforts to tackle Islamist extermism or rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country, I will do whatever it takes to fulfil that duty,” Sunak said.
Widening the UK government’s definition of extremism, cutting off organisations which fund and promote extremism in the UK and strengthening the terrorism legislation to crack down on extremism in prisons are the key steps Sunak said he will take to address the issue.
The former chancellor to the exchequer pointed out that Islamist extremists make up roughly 80% of live counter terrorism investigations and 68% of all extremists in prison.
He highlighted that only 22% cases of of Prevent referrals and Channel cases are related to Islamist extremism.
Channel is another aspect of the Prevent Strategy that is dedicated to safeguarding, supporting and protecting children, young people and vulnerable adults from radicalization.
Preventing Youth From Extremism and Audit of Charities
Rishi Sunak said he will also add vilification of the UK to the definition of extremism. He will ensure that those who carry an extreme hatred towards the UK – which also leads them to become a threat to national security – will be identified and diverted from the path they have chosen.
However, Sunak said it is not a legally binding definition and criticism of the government or the government’s policies will not come under the ambit of this plan.
He also highlighted the rise in publicly funded charities and organisations accused of promoting extremist ideology in the UK. Sunak said, if elected, he will conduct an audit of publicly funded third-party organisations to make sure no extremist organisation receives taxpayer money.
“Britain is a beacon of freedom, tolerance and diversity. We must never let those who seek to undermine and destroy our way of life succeed,” Sunak said.
He pointed out that the government under him will also audit third-party organisations linked to the UK government’s anti-radicalisation work.
Curbing Extremism Inside Prison
Rishi Sunak also said his plans would prevent the spread of extremist ideology inside UK’s prisons.
If elected prime minister, Sunak said his government would criminalize the support of a proscribed organisation and the encouragement of terrorism in a prison cell, even if it involves only two prisoners, by amending the Terrorism Act.
He said the prisons should be a tool for developing good behaviour, rehabilitation into wider society, tolerance and dignity among those who are incarcerated.
He said he will also ensure that the Bill of Rights is passed so that extremists inside the prison can be differentiated from the rest of the general prison population. Steps will be taken to see that the human rights framework of the UK is not used to spread the poisonous ideology of the extremists.
Sunak said his plans to crack down on radical Islam will also focus on mental health and steps will be taken to differentiate between those with mental health problems and those with extreme world views by reforming the Prevent programme and checking if it can be linked more effectively with mental health services.
Sunak said that it is not enough to think that jailing a terrorist is the final step, highlighting the 2022 Jonathan Hall QC Report. The Jonathan Hall QC report pointed out that the UK prison service failed to recognise the dangers Islamist gangs and convicted terrorists posed to the UK even from inside jails.
(with inputs from Sanjay Suri)