Counter-terrorism watchdog says government intends to clamp down on opinions as well as violent extremism
Schools that allow the promotion of extremism will either risk losing charitable status or seeing their governors face civil injunctions in the courts, according to Lord Carlile, who is in charge of the government’s review of its counter-terrorism strategy Prevent.
The review being conducted within the Home Office is due to be published by the end of March, and may include a new definition of extremism that suggests anyone who opposes the rule of law, democracy and equality for women could be deemed extreme.
The Liberal Democrat peer said he expected the Prevent review will make it clear that the government is intending to clamp down not just on violent extremism, but also on extremist views, such as advocacy of sharia law.
He also said it may be that a new body apart from the Charity Commission will have to determine whether schools are breaching the laws on extremism. There was a real problem with the commission’s investigative capacity due to the recent loss of 140 staff, he said.
Carlile also indicated at a Civitas seminar in London that the Prevent review will propose tougher requirements on Ofsted and other independent inspectorates to ensure that schools are not breaching a new public interest duty to prevent the promotion of extremism. He said that duty would apply to teaching in school, and also the use of school premises to allow extremists to preach.
There will be a single set of standards imposed on school inspectorates. There has been concern about the quality of some inspectorates, and their links with extremist groups. Carlile said he hoped the Prevent review will tackle head on the issue of governance in schools.
The review will for the first time provide an overall government definition of extremism, in an effort to tackle extremism whether it is violent or not.
Carlile attacked the recent Universities UK report into the fostering of extremism on campuses as “very disappointing”, saying the report had not addressed the issue of academia’s duty of pastoral care to its students. “Universities had to get real about their responsibilities,” he said.
It was shocking, he added, that 15% of universities did not even bother to respond to the survey conducted by Universities UK into how they were responding to the issue of radicalisation on campus.
He also argued it was important that police did not routinely engage with extremists, although they did have a responsibility to have contact with them to conduct criminal inquiries.
He said the review “will look into how you persuade moderates from a certain set of communities to step up to the plate, and what form of support they need”.
The internet needs to be used more systematically to provide Muslims with a better narrative about British foreign policy, he suggested, adding he did not think such websites would have much impact if they were branded as HMG.
He said many Muslims were not being radicalised in mosques, but on the internet and in gathering places for young men like gyms.