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Is extremism on the rise?

There’s a widely-held narrative that we live via a time of worsening intolerance within the UK, with individuals turning into extra vitriolic and polarised.

However Dr Julian Hargreaves, an adviser to the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism, challenges the proof.

He needs analysis to provide a better-informed debate – systematically mapping ranges of intolerance, how labels akin to “Islamist extremism” can skew the image and asking whether or not there are different methods of patterns of extremism.

As an example, as an alternative of non secular teams for warning indicators of extremism, ought to we study hyperlinks with addictive, obsessive behaviour, akin to drug dependancy?

Ought to there be consideration to persona sorts in addition to political opinions?

The fee, arrange within the aftermath of the Manchester Area terror assault, has the duty of assessing the size of extremism and discovering methods to sort out any help for such violence.

Excessive or strongly-held view?

However what’s “extremism”? How does it differ from strongly-held, professional beliefs? No person sees themselves as an extremist.

Dr Hargreaves, a researcher specialising in Britain’s Muslim communities, defines it as an try to “exclude or coerce” – however with the distinguishing function of being “dangerous”.

It doesn’t need to be violent. He offers the instance of some Muslim voices who argue on non secular grounds in opposition to voting.

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The Fee for Countering Extremism was arrange after the Manchester Area terror assault

“I’d argue that is a type of extremism,” says Dr Hargreaves, based mostly on the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, a school devoted to constructing bridges between faiths.

“Or far-right teams with a racist message – they may not be advocating violence, however these messages can simply gasoline violence.”

However he says extremism shouldn’t be confused with non secular “fundamentalism”, which generally is a extra orthodox, however professional, expression of perception.

He rejects the best way “the 2 have develop into interchangeable”.

“There are all types of people who find themselves very a lot outdoors the mainstream, however whose views are by most definitions innocent,” he says.

Dr Hargreaves, with a analysis background in each criminology and faith, says it might be very “dicey territory” to undertake a perspective through which “robust non secular views might be seen as extremist”.

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Social media makes extremism and intolerance extra seen – however does it imply such attitudes are extra widespread?

He additionally says intolerance may generally be seen as a constructive drive – akin to larger intolerance of sexism, racism or homophobia.

The inquest following the London Bridge attack, which began this week, exhibits the appalling penalties of violent extremism.

However away from the extreme scrutiny following such terror assaults, Dr Hargreaves says the larger image can stay a lot much less clear.

Change the labels, change the pattern

The labels used to explain extremism also can utterly change the obvious traits.

The latest figures from the Stop counter-terror programme in England and Wales, revealed in December, confirmed a pointy fall in referrals over “Islamist extremism”, down from 61% to 44% in a single yr.

This might be seen as a big breakthrough in opposition to radicalisation.

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Julian Hargreaves needs extra goal proof in claims about extremism

However what actually made the distinction was placing many extra into one other class, “blended, unstable or unclear ideology”.

This reconfiguring meant that at a stroke “Islamist extremism” grew to become a minority of the instances, with 44% of referrals.

The “unstable and unclear” now accounted for 27%, whereas 18% associated to right-wing extremism and 11% had been “others”, together with environmental campaigns and the far left.

This extra “nuanced” method, he says, made “unstable” the second greatest group, and moderately than a counter-terror intervention, he says some would possibly want psychological well being companies or housing and employment recommendation.

Politics or paranoia?

Dr Hargreaves says there is likely to be different methods of extremism – as a method of behaving moderately than a method of believing.

This might embrace an overlap with addictions.

“In quite a lot of instances the people had been referred to dependancy companies and had documented issues with drink or medication,” he says.

There is likely to be connections with psychological well being issues too.

“Paranoid, psychotic delusions aren’t that far faraway from forms of grievances you usually hear round individuals with extremist views,” says Dr Hargreaves, a part of the skilled group for the anti-extremism fee.

He says that his contribution is to maintain pushing for extra proof.


There shall be a survey of ranges of tolerance – which he says will take a look at whether or not illiberal attitudes are actually growing, moderately than turning into extra seen via social media.

He questions the reliability of unelected “neighborhood leaders” who might need their very own agendas.

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One other aspect of “intolerance” is that individuals are much less more likely to tolerate prejudice, says Dr Hargreaves

Claims about segregation and prejudice, akin to in northern cities in England, he argues, would possibly miss the constructive native connections going down.

“It is essential to not generalise. The scenario on the bottom might be extra difficult.

“Communities are muddling via in that basic British method, generally away from the top-down initiatives and coverage methods.”

He warns in opposition to “pointing fingers” at specific teams – together with white, working-class communities.

“Coverage-makers would do nicely to have somewhat extra sympathy for communities which have undergone change,” he says.

The values and beliefs of “socially conservative” teams shouldn’t be marginalised, he says.

However how can extremism be tackled?

Dr Hargreaves just isn’t satisfied by “grand narratives” about ideological battles.

“It is rather more helpful to maneuver away from grand, heroic language and consider these points as being akin to public well being points.

“Taking a public well being method means offering the info wanted, shifting past headlines about ‘rising extremism’ to consider who’s in danger, the place are they, what are the dangers?”

He says the “position of household, buddies and communities continues to be undervalued in coverage circles” – and higher use needs to be fabricated from reasonable non secular leaders.

However he says counting on stereotypes about extremism is a “disservice to communities”.