Terror victims sign letter against anti-Muslim hate in UK

They warn it is the 'height of irresponsibility' for some politicians to equate 'being Muslim with being an extremist'

The anniversary of the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2022. PA
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More than 50 terror victims, including Magen Inon whose parents were killed by Hamas during the October 7 attacks on Israel, have signed a joint letter against what they describe as anti-Muslim hate.

They warn it is “irresponsible” for some politicians to equate extremists with “the vast majority of British Muslims who deplore such violence”.

It comes as the UK’s Communities and Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove prepares to publish an official definition of extremism which will see the government cut ties with radical groups.

On Sunday, he warned that Iran-backed groups are encouraging extremism in the UK.

“It is undoubtedly the case that there are individuals who are either linked to or who admire the Iranian regime, and who are extremist in the UK,” he told the Sunday Telegraph.

“One of the things that we’re explicitly looking at is the way in which foreign state and non-state actors seek to encourage extremism here. And again, this is inevitably sensitive work about which I can say only a very limited amount because it’s not only Iran that attempts to use some of these forces to destabilise British democracy.”

Ahead of his overhaul of the UK's extremism strategy, a group of 58 victims of terrorism warned in a letter that it was the “height of irresponsibility” for some politicians to equate “being Muslim with being an extremist”.

“The single most important thing we can do is to isolate the extremists and the terrorists from the vast majority of British Muslims who deplore such violence,” the letter said.

Signatories include survivors and relatives of those killed in attacks in the UK and around the world.

The letter says they are “only too aware” of the threat of “Islamist extremism”, but added that it is wrong to conflate extremists with the vast majority of British Muslims.

“This is not only wrong in itself, it makes the job of the Islamist extremists easier and plays into the hands of terrorists … We also know where anti-Muslim hate can lead,” it said.

“While Islamist-inspired extremism is our country’s most pressing terror threat, it is not our only one – and responding to it by feeding far-right extremism, dividing our communities and exaggerating the risk will feed a cycle of extremism that will put more people at risk.

“It is the height of irresponsibility.”

The signatories include Rebecca Rigby, whose husband Lee was killed by two extremists outside the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, south-east London, in May 2013, Justine Merton-Scott, a survivor of the attack on the Bataclan theatre in Paris in November 2015, and Michelle Hussain, a survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing in May 2017.

Claudia Vince, who survived the 2019 London Bridge attack, and Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe, whose partner David was killed in the Brussels Metro bombing in 2016, have also added their names.

The government has been reviewing non-violent extremism and is shortly expected to announce measures to bar groups or people deemed to be extremists from government and council funding, and from working with public bodies.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called on the UK to take a stand against extremism and warned that the country was being torn apart by rising domestic tensions.

Mr Gove told the Sunday Telegraph that pro-Palestinian marchers should question whether extremist groups are behind some of the protests and that the updated definition will help protesters decide whether to attend events.

“Some of the events that have been organised, have been organised by extremist organisations,” he said.

“That doesn’t mean that people who have gone on them are extremist, quite the opposite. But it means that you can begin to question: do you really want to be lending credence to this organisation?”

Mr Gove will publish a list of the groups that will be cut off by the government.

He is also expected to announce details of a new unit for combating extremism which will provide training for officials across government departments to improve their ability to identify extremism.

It will be responsible for assessing whether people or groups have breached the updated definition.

Updated: March 10, 2024, 12:14 PM