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.
But critics, ranging from civil rights groups to leading academics and lawmakers, say what the government is trying to do amounts to a curb on free speech which could drive a wedge between the authorities and Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims. They argue if anything such plans will only make the problem worse and amount to an attack on the fundamental liberties the government wants to protect.”Over the last few years the circle of who and what is considered extreme has been expanding slowly,” said Butt, 30, who is taking the British government to court over its counter-extremism strategy.”Before it was just somebody committing crimes or calling for violence and then they expanded more and more to everyday people who happen to maybe criticise certain aspects of the government policy or hold certain conservative Islamic views,” he told Reuters.
The problem facing Britain and other Western governments is the same one with which they have wrestled since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States: how to stop their young citizens being radicalised without been seen to censor critics.