Far-right extremism ‘a growing threat’ in UK

Police officers keep guard at Downing Street in London, in this Dec. 6, 2017 file photo. (AP)
Updated 28 March 2018

Far-right extremism ‘a growing threat’ in UK

LONDON: Growing numbers of far-right extremists are being referred to a counterterrorism program run by the British government, new figures show.
A total of 968 people were referred to the Prevent scheme between April 2016 and March 2017 due to concerns about their radical right-wing beliefs — a rise of more than a quarter on the previous year.
This increase reflects warnings from police about the rising threat of terrorist attacks in the UK by groups motivated by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant beliefs.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, a UK-based non-profit organization that works to reduce extremism and interfaith tensions, told Arab News the figures were a sign that Prevent was trying to address all forms of radicalism.
“The increase in referrals is partly because of a rise in far-right extremism, but (it) also (shows) that professionals are becoming more attuned to assessing and safeguarding risks,” he said.
The British government set up the Prevent program in 2003 to address the threat of Islamic radicalism in the country, but its focus has widened to include other forms of extremism. The government considers it a key part of its counterterrorism strategy.
Prevent allows schools, universities and other public entities to report concerns or suspicions they have about someone with potentially extreme right-wing or militantly Islamic views.
In February, the-then UK counterterrorism police chief, Mark Rowley, said that four terrorist plots by right-wing extremists had been uncovered during 2017.
The latest Prevent figures, released yesterday, show that a total of 6,093 people were referred to the scheme last year, with more than half of those aged 20 or under.
But while the numbers indicate that far-right radicalism is a growing problem in Britain, they also highlight the continued threat posed by Islamic extremism.
More than 60 percent of referrals to the program are still related to concerns about Islamic extremism, though the figure of 3,704 people is a 26 percent decrease on the previous year.
Out of the total number of referrals to Prevent, 1,146 people were passed on to the government’s anti-radicalization program Channel, a voluntary scheme that provides mentors to individuals deemed vulnerable to extremism. About two-thirds of these cases were related to concerns over Islamic extremism.
The Prevent program has been highly controversial in Britain, with critics claiming it sows distrust between communities and encourages Muslims to spy on each other.
Mughal said that while Prevent has its faults, it plays a key role in combating terrorism.
“Mistakes have been made in its previous delivery and communications, but those who obsess about it have no alternative,” he said. “Do they truly believe that any government would have no counterterrorism or counter-extremism strategy?” he said.
Mughal said he was pleased Prevent is tackling the threat of far-right extremism as well as Islamic radicalism.
“Let us not forget that this is about the safeguarding of people and lives, and we have lost many lives in this country to Islamist terrorism and a smaller number to far-right extremism and terrorism,” he said.
The Muslim Council of Britain has previously called for an “independent inquiry” into Prevent, with a statement last November questioning the use of the program in schools, citing incidents where young children in nursery were referred to the scheme.


Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

Updated 16 September 2019

Kim Jong Un invites Trump to Pyongyang

  • Invitation extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has invited US President Donald Trump to Pyongyang in his latest letter to the American head of state,  South Korea’s top diplomat said on Monday.

“I heard detailed explanations from US officials that there was such a letter a while ago,” Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa told a  parliamentary session. “But I’m not in a position to confirm what’s in the letter or when it was delivered.”

The foreign minister’s remarks followed reports by a local newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, which said that Kim’s invitation was extended in an undisclosed personal letter sent to Trump on Aug. 15.

If true, the invitation was made as diplomats of the two governments were in a tug-of-war over the resumption of working-level talks for the North’s denuclearization efforts.

During a surprise meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, Trump and Kim pledged that working-level nuclear disarmament talks would resume within a month, but no such talks have been held,  with both sides indulging in a blame game instead.

“We are very curious about the background of the American top  diplomat’s thoughtless remarks and we will watch what calculations he has,” North Korea’s first vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said on Aug. 30 in a statement carried by the North’s official Central News Agency (KCNA). He was referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments terming Pyongyang’s rocket launches as “rogue.”

However, the tone has changed significantly with the communist state recently offering to return to dialogue with Washington “at a time and place agreed late in September.”

“I want to believe that the US side would come out with an alternative based on a calculation method that serves both sides’ interests and is acceptable to us,” Choe said on Aug. 30.

On Monday, the director-general of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s department of American affairs said working-level denuclearization talks will likely take place “in a few weeks” but demanded security guarantees and sanctions’ relief as prerequisites.

“The discussion of denuclearization may be possible when threats and hurdles endangering our system security and obstructing our  development are clearly removed beyond all doubt,” the statement said. 

HIGHLIGHT

It’s not clear whether the US president has responded to the invitation, thought he has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was upbeat about the early resumption of nuclear talks.

“North Korea-US working-level dialogue will resume soon,” he said, citing an “unchanged commitment” to trust and peace by the leaders of both Koreas and the US. 

The working-level meeting will serve as a “force to advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.

Moon is scheduled to meet Trump on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly session in New York next week.

“It will be an opportunity to share opinions and gather wisdom with Trump on the direction of further development of South Korea-US  relations,” he said.

The White House offered no immediate comment.

It’s not clear whether Trump responded to Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, but the US commander-in-chief has touted his personal relationship with the young North Korean dictator, who oversaw the test-firings of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple launch rockets more than half a dozen times since late July.

While none of the projectiles are a direct threat to the US continent they still pose threats to US and its allied forces in South Korea and Japan.

“Kim Jong-un has been, you know, pretty straight with me, I think,” Trump told reporters on August 24 before flying off to meet with world leaders at the G7 in France. “And we’re going to see what’s going on. We’re going to see what’s happening. He likes testing missiles.”

Experts say the apparent firing of US National Security Adviser John Bolton has also boosted chances of fresh negotiations with the North, which had long criticized him for his hawkish approach toward the regime.

“The displacement of a ‘bad guy’ could be construed as a negotiating tactic to seek a breakthrough in the stalemate of nuclear talks. It’s a show of a will to engage the counterpart in a friendlier manner from the perspective of negotiation science,” Park Sang-ki, an adjunct professor at the department of business management at Sejong University in Seoul, told Arab News.