Ahead of the Queen’s speech the Evangelical Alliance’s head of public policy, Simon McCrossan commented on the government’s proposal to establish a commission on extremism commission.
“The recent attacks in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, and most recently in Finsbury Park have focused all of our attention on how to stop these terrorist actions. The work of the police and security services has been rightly applauded and focus has inevitably turned to what more can be done.
“Proposals from the government to introduce an extremism commission raise more questions than they answer. The government has tried and failed in recent years to define extremism in a way that tackles terrorism and its causes without restricting freedom of ideas which may be unpopular or contentious. Violent extremism is a scar on our communities and a threat to our security, but it is not solved by shutting down peaceful freedom of expression.
“Last year, the Home Office minister Karen Bradley MP provided 10 different definitions of extremism to the Joint Committee of Human Rights. It is a matter for parliament to define with legal certainty what extremism is and, importantly, what it is not. The proposed commission must not become a means of bypassing democratic scrutiny and debate about an elusive term which potentially affects the human rights and civil liberties of all.
“Our existing laws include wide ranging powers to tackle terrorism and to prevent inciting violence: these need to be used to their full extent. The government has failed to show the gap in its legislative armour and are at risk of appearing to remedy the current situation with more powers that may do more harm than good.
“We hope that the powers of the extremism commission will be clearly defined, and that any definitions of extremism will be clearly the responsibility of parliament.”