To his detractors, including the British government, Salman Butt is an extremist whose views on Islam fly in the face of Britain’s values and help foster an atmosphere where young Muslims can be radicalised by militants.
Even though he is not accused of supporting militant groups or violence, the British authorities believe it is only by cracking down on activists like Butt and denying a forum for their ideas to be widely heard that the threat posed by jihadis and groups such as Islamic State can be countered.
Rupert Sutton, director of Student Rights, an organization that campaigns against extremism on university campuses, said people with controversial views were often given a platform where their opinions were not questioned.
“They’re too often given a free pass,” he told Reuters. “If you put it as a dichotomy between either freedom of expression or ban them from speaking that is too binary. What we need to think about is how we are going to make it so that when they do come to speak they face challenge rather than being banned.”
He said the focus should be on using existing legislation to tackle people like Choudary, even if he had long proved adept at ensuring he did not break the law.
“When someone is as effective at it as Choudary is, you are going to get people saying: ‘How is he allowed to go around on the street doing this?'” he said.
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