More parents have the possibility to have the passports of their children blocked if they fear they may travel to join extremist groups, under the government’s new counter-terrorism strategy outlined today.
Travel bans will be imposed on children under the age of 17 if requested by their families at a passport office and after an investigation has been carried out by officials.
Under the new plans, anyone with a previous conviction for extremist activity will also be banned from working with children and vulnerable people, with such people treated very similarly as sex offenders by authorities.
In his foreward published in the the government’s Counter-Extremism Strategy, David Cameron said:
“The fight against Islamist extremism is, I believe, one of the great struggles of our generation. In responding to this poisonous ideology, we face a choice. Do we close our eyes, put our kid gloves on and just hope that our values will somehow endure in the end? Or do we get out there and make the case for those values, defend them with all that we’ve got and resolve to win the battle of ideas all over again?
“In the past, I believe governments made the wrong choice. Whether in the face of Islamist or neo-Nazi extremism, we were too tolerant of intolerance, too afraid to cause offence. We seemed to lack the strength and resolve to stand up for what is right, even when the damage being done by extremists was all too clear.
“The publication of this Counter-Extremism Strategy is a clear signal of the choice we make today”
Other measures outlined in the document include extra powers for police to close down premises that support extremism, bans on radical preachers publishing online, and increased demands on internet service providers to remove access to extremist material online and identify its publishers.
However, Muslim leaders have warned that the new measures risk further alienating young British Muslims, and fear that the creation of government “blacklists” of extremists had “McCarthyist undertones”.
Muslim Council of Britain’s Secretary General, Dr Shuja Shafi, said:
“Facing this challenge requires engagement with all sections of society particularly the diversity of British Muslim communities in an open and frank dialogue. Yet, today’s ‘one nation’ counter-extremism strategy continues down a flawed path, focusing on Muslims in particular, and are based on fuzzy conceptions of British values. It risks being counter-productive by alienating the very people needed to confront Al-Qaeda or Daesh-related terrorism: British Muslim communities.
“For over 10 years we have had to contend with a misguided “conveyor-belt theory” analysis that conflates terrorism with subjective notions of extremism and Islamic practices.
“Whether it is in mosques, education or charities, the strategy will reinforce perceptions that all aspects of Muslim life must undergo a ‘compliance’ test to prove our loyalty to this country. These measures could be seen more as a means to address the anxieties a minority of people may have against Muslims and their religious life, rather than the scourge of terrorism itself.”
Police estimate that more than 700 people from the UK have travelled to join jihadist organisations in Syria and Iraq, with most joining the Islamic State (IS), a group which has carried out terrorist attacks across the middle east.