‘The game is up’: Home secretary urges British Muslims to tackle extremism

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May.(Reuters / Stefan Wermut)
Home Secretary Theresa May has appealed for Muslims to help tackle the threat of extremism, saying Britain must not tolerate citizens who fail to respect its values and that British freedoms come with “responsibilities.”

Her comments came with the unveiling of a broad approach to tackling extremism in the UK. May said while extremism exists in racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia, Islamic extremism is the greatest threat to the country.

Her plans did not include handing ministers powers to tell educational institutions to ban extremist speakers, a measure staunchly opposed by her party’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

“Everybody living in this country is equal and everybody is free to lead their lives as they see fit,” she told an audience in central London.

We are free to practice any faith, follow any religious denomination, or ignore religion altogether.

“We are free to wear whatever clothes we choose. We are free to establish our own faith schools and give our sons and daughters the best education possible. We are free to build our own churches, temples and mosques and worship freely,” she said.

May added that with the freedoms offered by British society comes the responsibility to respect others’ values. She said the “overwhelming majority” of people in the country “accept and positively cherish” the arrangement.

“But there is increasing evidence that a small but significant number of people living in Britain – almost all of whom are British citizens – reject our values,” she added.

She warned of growing levels of Islamic extremism spreading throughout the country, citing examples of the Trojan Horse plot to take over Birmingham schools and allegations of extremist ideas being promulgated in schools.

“We have been clear all along that the government’s counter-extremism strategy must seek to defeat extremism in all its forms, but it’s obvious from the evidence that the most serious and widespread form of extremism we need to confront is Islamist extremism.”

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May has been responsible for introducing a plethora of new counter-terror measures, including seizing suspects’ passports.

But she has been criticized for implementing policies that unfairly target the Muslim community.

May also said those who follow Islam are “entirely compatible” with British values, but added there is a clear distinction between followers and extremists.

They demand a caliphate, or a new Islamic state, governed by a harsh interpretation of Sharia law.”

“They utterly reject British and Western values, including democracy, the rule of law, and equality between citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. They believe that it’s impossible to be a good Muslim and a good British citizen.”

She called on Muslims to tackle the “intolerance, hatred and bigotry” of extremism, which “erodes” women’s rights and “discriminates” against race and sexuality.

“Trust is replaced by fear, reciprocity by envy, and solidarity by division.”

“Government cannot act alone. Individual people, families and whole communities need help and those of you fighting the extremists deserve our support,” she said.

“So my invitation is clear – come and join that partnership. If you join us, we will do everything we can to help you. We will help you to stand up to the extremists by denying them the opportunity to spread their messages of hate and division.”

The home secretary sent a clear warning to extremists: “The game is up. We will no longer tolerate your behavior. We will expose your hateful beliefs for what they are.

“Where you seek to spread hate, we will disrupt you. Where you break the law, we will prosecute you. Where you seek to divide us, we will stand united. And together, we will defeat you.”