2 Aug 2016

Government’s counter-extremism strategy faces court challenge

The Government’s entire counter-extremism strategy is to be challenged in the courts for the first time.

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Muslim activist Dr Salman Butt has launched legal action against the Home Secretary after he was named in a Government press release about hate preachers – suggesting they be barred from university campuses for fear of radicalising students.

The Imperial University PhD biochemist graduate is also challenging the Home Office Prevent agenda, claiming it fundamentally breaches free speech and other human rights.

A High Court judge today ruled Dr Butt had an arguable case against the Home Secretary.

Dr Butt told Channel 4 News: “My aim for this case is to force decisions Government makes in private of who are extremists to come out and see transparency in the courts. I want people who have been labelled with this smear of extremism to be able to tell why they are labelled as such and to challenge that. It’s set a very dangerous precedent to arbitrarily label someone an extremist.”

Dr Salman Butt is the chief editor of a web discussion forum, called “Islam in the 21st century”, which
gets 100,00 visitors a month. The Home Office claimed he used it to violate British values, so has named him as a non-violent extremist.

Last December a Home Office Parliamentary answer stated Dr Butt “appeared to compare homosexuality to paedophilia as a sin; shared a platform with CAGE and supported its position on ‘Jihadi John’ (Mohammed Emwazi), which has been to try to justify his resort to violence”.

Dr Butt told Channel 4 News he does not support ISIS or al-Qaeda and says his statements about Jihadi John have been taken out of context.

He says he was shocked to find his name on a Downing Street press release on “hate preachers” last September, which named him in a list of six speakers who were branded non-violent extremists. The statement suggested they should be banned from speaking on college campuses.

Dr Butt, who describes himself as a Muslim activist, says he’s annoyed at Government attempts to smear him and that the label of extremism is applied disproportionately to Muslims – restricting liberties to speak is dangerous.

Channel 4 News contacted the Home Office for comment. It said: “It would be inappropriate to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.”

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