Anti-Blasphemy Radicals Gaining Alarming Power in the UK

A chilling, new counter-extremism report from an independent commission reveals that “anti-blasphemy activism” is slowly “gaining momentum” in the United Kingdom, warning that it is becoming "increasingly radicalized" and is being promoted by charities.

The Commission for Countering Extremism, a British government agency formed in 2018 after the 2017 Manchester Arena attack, published the report this March. The report, titled “Understanding and Responding to Blasphemy Extremism in the UK,” said that responses to any acts perceived as blasphemous are "more organized than ever" in the UK, and some of the most prominent personalities involved were connected to “violent anti-blasphemy extremists" in Pakistan.

The report identified "blasphemy flashpoints" linked to a "new generation" of anti-blasphemy activists working to "make blasphemy a key issue of concern for British Muslims.” Three incidents involving blasphemy, including an incident in March 2023 where a student faced death threats after a Quran was slightly damaged, were highlighted by the report.

It also identified and discussed sectarian rhetoric and violence against Ahmadi Muslims, a branch of Islam considered blasphemous by most mainstream branches of Islam, and added that this violence has become a major part of anti-blasphemy activism in the UK.

The report also made recommendations to the British government to review the charitable status of organizations linked to "anti-blasphemy extremism.” It also referred to an investigation opened by the Charity Commission in 2019 after pamphlets urging Muslims to “kill Ahmadis” were found in Stockwell Green Mosque, a mosque that is also a registered charity.

Lastly, the report advises the government to include anti-blasphemy activism as a specific category of extremism in the UK and proscribing groups associated with such activities like the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right Islamist political party from Pakistan that is dedicated to punishing any perceived acts of blasphemy.

Some organizations, such as the National Secular Society (NSS), welcomed the report’s findings. Its chief executive, Stephen Evans, said that "the report is welcome recognition of the need to address the disturbing rise in anti-blasphemy incidents across the UK.

"Britain may have abolished blasphemy laws protecting Christianity, but vigilance is needed to ensure new blasphemy codes protecting Islam or any other religion are not imposed and enforced by intimidation or the threat of violence,” Evans said.

"A joint governmental and civil society response is needed to better champion freedom of expression as a positive value. The fundamental rights of individuals to criticize, question, and mock all ideas, including religious beliefs, must be non-negotiable," he also added.

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