In Brief

Far-right ‘swooping into towns to divide populations’

Commission for Countering Extremism report says activists spread lies about Muslims

The Government’s chief adviser on extremism has warned that the far-right is swooping into towns and cities to exploit community tensions and turn people against Muslims.

Sara Khan, who leads the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), said activists are distorting the truth to rile up white populations. The Independent has described her findings as “profoundly disturbing”.

In her first major report, titled Challenging Hateful Extremism, Khan singled out Tommy Robinson, For Britain party leader Anne Marie Waters, and Jayda Fransen, former deputy leader of the fascist group Britain First for particular criticism.

Khan visited 20 towns and cities and studied 3,000 responses to a call for evidence to compile her report, which accuses the far-right of posing as protectors of women to target Muslims. “[They] said they aimed to improve the safety of women and children locally,” the report found.

“However, their rhetoric targeted ethnic minorities, despite nearly 85% of people convicted of sexual offences in 2018 in the Northumbria Police force area being white.” It further accused “far-right agitators” of exploiting “local grievances”.

Khan found that the Government’s response to extremism was “inadequate”, “unfocused” and in urgent need of a complete overhaul. The report calls for a separate, national body - led by the Home Secretary - focused solely on tackling the spread of hatred, be it from the far-right, Islamist or other sources.

She is calling on the Government to focus on what the CCE defines as “hateful extremism” - behaviour that could “incite and amplify hate” or make the “moral case for violence” and could put people at risk of harm.

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