Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 13 December 2019

Britain’s interior minister warns inflammatory political debate is fuelling extremism

Sajid Javid makes thinly veiled criticism of Donald Trump, calling on political leaders to change tone

Britain's interior minister Sajid Javid urged public figures to "moderate their language". AFP
Britain's interior minister Sajid Javid urged public figures to "moderate their language". AFP

Britain’s home secretary Sajid Javid has called on leaders to “moderate their language” to tackle extremism and cited as an example President Donald Trump’s Twitter tirade against US congresswomen.

Mr Javid, who is from an immigrant background, said on Friday “myths about immigration” must be confronted.

Mr Trump was accused of racism this week after he told four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they “originally came from”.

In an apparent reference to the President’s comments, Mr Javid said: "I know what it's like to be told to go back to where I came from."

Mr Javid, whose position in government could be changed next week under the new prime minister, said extremists use immigration as a “proxy for race”, stoking up fear about immigrants.

"Anyone can challenge the myths," he said in a speech titled Confronting Extremism Together. "So tell your friends, shout it loud and proud: people from minority backgrounds did not steal our jobs, they're not terrorists, that there is no global 'Zionist conspiracy'."

Mr Javid’s comments come after 150 parliamentarians signed a statement condemning Mr Trump for his “outright racist” remarks against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

Britain’s outgoing prime minister Theresa May described the President’s words as “completely unacceptable” but stopped short of branding him racist.

A survey conducted by Britain’s Independent Commission for Countering Extremism, set up in the wake of the 2017 Manchester Bombing that killed 22 mostly young concert goers, revealed that 52 per cent of those polled had personal experience of extremism.

“I was shocked that more than half of the respondents have witnessed extremism in some way, and that two-fifths of them said they’d seen it in their local area,” the Commission’s lead Sara Khan said.

An academic paper published alongside the statistical report warned that the far-right now had “widespread public support”.

Joe Mulhall, senior Researcher, at Hope not Hate, said far-right demonstrations, including protests organised by anti-Muslim activist Tommy Robinson, were attracting the largest number of supporters since the 1930s.

Dr Mulhall said it was now evident that “large parts of the contemporary far-right’s platform - namely anti-Muslim politics, co-option of the free speech debate and an anti-elite populism - has widespread public support”.

Updated: July 19, 2019 02:37 PM