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PM Sunak issues extremists warning

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-04 09:20

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks outside 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, March 1, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

The United Kingdom's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called for national unity to combat extremist threats and announced stringent measures targeting hate speech in universities and visa revocations for people inciting fear.

Sunak also expressed concern about ongoing protests in the UK related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during an extraordinary televised address on Friday, held outside his official 10 Downing Street residence, a set-up usually reserved for major announcements, such as those triggering elections.

The PM intensified his warnings about threats to democracy, citing domestic forces seeking division, while equating Islamists and the far-right as "two sides of the same extremist coin".

He accused the extremists of "spreading a poison" and seeking to "weaponize the evils of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred for their own ends".

Support for the anti-terrorism Prevent program would be redoubled, he said, and ministers would demand universities halt extremist activity on campus and work to prevent individuals whose aim is to undermine UK values from entering the country.

There has been a "shocking increase" in extremist disruption and criminal activities in recent months, following the outbreak of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, said Sunak.

"What started as protests on our streets have descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence," he said. "Jewish children fearful to wear their school uniform lest it reveals their identity. Muslim women abused in the street for the actions of a terrorist group they have no connection with. Now our democracy itself is a target."

Individuals who promote hate in the UK while on visas will face the loss of their right to stay in the country, he added.

He also urged participants in pro-Palestine protests to reject extremism.

He said: "I want to speak directly to those who choose to continue to protest: don't let the extremists hijack your marches.

"Let us prove these extremists wrong and show them that even when we disagree, we will never be disunited."

He said a "new, robust framework" on extremism would be revealed later this month, to ensure that no extremist organizations or individuals "are being lent legitimacy by their actions and interactions with central government".

Sunak said: "You cannot be part of our civic life if your agenda is to tear it down."

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said the prime minister was correct to "advocate unity and to condemn the unacceptable and intimidatory behavior that we have seen recently".

Efforts to address concerns about alleged Islamophobia within the Conservative Party last week were overshadowed by former deputy party chairman Lee Anderson's comments claiming that London and its mayor Sadiq Khan were under the influence of Islamists.

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