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Over 400 UK imams reject new extremism definition targeting Muslim bodies

3rd May 2024

Nadine Osman

More than 400 British imams and Islamic scholars have unequivocally condemned the UK government’s new definition of extremism, which targets numerous British Muslim organisations.

Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, stirred controversy on March 14 by unveiling a contentious and “non-statutory” new definition of extremism.

Gove specifically singled out several Muslim organisations, such as the Muslim Association of Britain and Cage, stating that the government intended to “hold them to account” based on the new definition due to their “Islamist orientation.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities stated that the definition had been revised to address an “escalating extremist threat” following the October 7 terror attacks in Israel. They referenced a surge in reported incidents of antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes as the reason for the update.

“We note that the discourse of ‘extremism’ relies on the faulty and academically baseless neoconservative notion that ideology is a cause of political violence,” it said. “We observe that Mr Gove has a history of targeting Islam and Muslims under the label of ‘Islamism’.”

The new definition has also faced condemnation from equality and rights campaigners, such as The Runnymede Trust and Amnesty International.

The letter asserted that the announcement was motivated by pro-Israeli figures within the UK government aiming to suppress “legitimate activism” opposing Israeli actions against Palestinians.

“The hypocrisy of Mr Gove et al, who coercively apply ‘British values,’ which includes democracy, whilst simultaneously suppressing democratic participation that opposes their agenda, is glaringly obvious,” the imams said.
“Despite the prime minister’s purported commitment to bridging gaps with the Muslim community, his government’s actions suggest a preference for divisive tactics over genuine dialogue and engagement.”

Gove’s department announced that the new definition would guide government departments and officials in determining which groups to engage with and provide funding to, as well as in identifying extremist behaviours. But it said: “This definition is not statutory and has no effect on the existing criminal law – it applies to the operations of Government itself.”

Photo: Communities Secretary Michael Gove presenting the new definition of Extremism in Parliament On March 14, 2024. (Credit: Maria Unger/UK Parliament)

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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