A fresh crackdown on Islamist extremism risks backfiring by fuelling anti-Muslim prejudice and driving hardliners underground, the Government was warned last night.
A group that monitors attacks on Muslims said it was preparing for an upsurge of violence as a result of the moves being announced today by David Cameron.
Under the Prime Minister’s proposals, Islamist radicals face being expelled from mosques, Muslim community groups and universities in a fight-back against fundamentalism.
The courts would be given new civil powers – similar to Asbos – to ban suspected extremists from preaching or indoctrinating others.
At the same time internet companies have been asked to block terrorist material from overseas being accessed in this country.
The measures were proposed by the Prime Minister’s extremism task force – which included ministers, community groups, the police and the security services – set up after the killing of Lee Rigby.
Last night Fiyaz Mughal, the director of Tell Mama, which records anti-Muslim incidents, said he feared Mr Cameron’s announcements would reinforce negative perceptions of Muslims.
Mr Mughal said he had asked extra staff to be on standby because of an anticipated surge in hate attacks. He added that the new rules should cover all forms of extremism, including the activities of the far right.
“There has to be parity and not a feeling that Muslims are being singled out,” he said.
Chris Allen, an expert on Islamophobia at Birmingham University, said: “The more the lens is turned on the Muslim community, the more society begins to think, ‘There’s no smoke without fire’.”
Isabella Sankey, the director of policy at Liberty, said it was important to confront “ugly ideologies across the spectrum”. But she added: “Driving those who despise diversity further underground does nothing to expose their beliefs and only acts as another recruitment tool. You cannot protect our democracy by shutting down the very freedoms that sustain it.”