FORMER commissioner for countering extremism at the Home Office has raised a red flag regarding the leniency of British laws that permit Hamas supporters to glorify terrorism.
Sara Khan expressed concerns about the limitations in the current legislation, allowing the spread of what she referred to as “hateful extremism.”
Existing laws restrict the police’s ability to intervene effectively in cases where individuals or groups glorify Hamas attacks on Israel, as long as they refrain from explicitly encouraging terrorist acts and avoid direct support for the proscribed organization, Khan wrote in The Telegraph.
Currently, she is an independent adviser on social cohesion to Michael Gove, secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Khan along with Sir Mark Rowley, the current Metropolitan Police commissioner, published a report which called for new legislation to address hateful extremism.
Her concerns came in the wake of home secretary Suella Braverman’s call for a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitism following the Hamas attack on Israel.
Reports of antisemitic incidents in the UK have tripled compared to the same period last year since the outbreak of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to the Community Security Trust (CST), an organization that advises the UK’s estimated 280,000 Jewish population on security matters.
However, the number of arrests for public order offenses related to anti-Israel and pro-Palestine protests remains limited, even in cases like the incident in Sheffield, where an Israeli flag was ripped down from the town hall, an act that the police are treating as racially aggravated.
Khan stressed that “glaring gaps” in the UK’s hate crime and counter-terrorism legislation have created a “permissive environment” for hateful extremists to operate.
She noted the proliferation of disturbing online content and the celebration of rallies that, at best, appeared highly insensitive but, at worst, glorified and endorsed terrorism.
Khan pointed out that the freedom to demonstrate is a fundamental right in the UK, and in most cases, waving flags and chanting are not unlawful.
However, she noted that there are unclear areas, such as the use of slogans that can have different interpretations.
“‘Free Palestine,’ for example, is viewed by some British Jews as clearly anti-Semitic and a call for the total eradication of Israel, while for others, it is an expression of support for the Palestinian people and a future state,” Khan explained.
Khan concluded that extremism fosters hatred and violence, causing fear among minority groups and undermining democratic freedoms.
She called for immediate action to address the legislative vulnerabilities that allow hateful extremism to persist in the country.
Khan hopes that the tragic events in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza will lead to renewed efforts to enact necessary changes in legislation.