Looking the Other Way No More


The global situation seems to be becoming more perilous by the day. Last week, in his first setpiece speech as Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps announced that the West was at the dawn of a new and more dangerous era, moving “from a post-war to pre-war world”. As if to back him up, Pakistan and Iran conducted military strikes inside each other’s territory, while in a separate development analysts debated the possibility that North Korea has decided to go to war. With conflicts already ongoing in Ukraine and the Middle East, and China-Taiwan tensions continuing to rise, Mr Shapps can hardly be dismissed as an alarmist.


Yet these rising global threats must not distract us from the peril closer to home. Indeed, as the Henry Jackson Society has always argued, the two are inseparable. A strong and free society at home is an essential complement to robustly defending our democratic values overseas. And in an increasingly interconnected world, conflict overseas brings domestic consequences that we need to address with the same strength as we show on the world stage.


Sadly, it seems that too much of our domestic counter-terror infrastructure is still complacent about the gathering threat. It was a relief that the government at last proscribed Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation this week, but it was absurd that the decision took so long. Britain was playing catch up, banning a group that is already outlawed in Germany as well as in Egypt, Pakistan and several Arab countries.


The decision to do so was based in part on the group’s antisemitism and its celebration of the perpetrators of the monstrous crimes of October 7 as “heroes” on its central website. The hands-off policing of recent pro-Palestine marches in London has left too many with the impression that such sentiments can be expressed with impunity in the UK. This was a welcome indication to the contrary. But far more needs to be done to ensure that message is heard loud and clear.


Elsewhere, the Security Minister Tom Tugendhat was reported to have launched an investigation into the content of external counter-terror courses for civil servants. The minister took action after a report in Fathom painted an extraordinarily depressing picture of a King’s College London course. The author described it as confirming her fears “that extremism and terrorism are misunderstood by civil servants to the point of being a national security risk.”


The “overriding emphasis” of the course was apparently “that Islamist extremism is exaggerated”. The views of William Shawcross, author of the government’s independent review of Prevent, were belittled. It was also suggested that the views of HJS’s long-time former Associate Director Douglas Murray’s be “suppressed”


Again, it is good news that these concerns have come to light and have prompted an internal review. But the existence of training sessions like this shows that we are currently unserious in the UK about tackling extremism and terrorism, even as overseas threats contribute to the risk.


Here is a test to see if Britain has woken up to the new and more dangerous world in which we now find ourselves. Will the government now proscribe Iran’s terrorist thugs, the IRGC, who are currently both arming the Houthis and presenting a serious domestic threat inside the UK? If not, why not?


Just as we have tragically neglected to maintain the strength of our armed forces, we have also failed to tackle extremist groups inside our own borders. As we enter a more dangerous era, we can no longer afford the luxury of looking the other way.


Marc Sidwell is the Director of Research at the Henry Jackson Society


Lost your password?

Not a member? Please click here