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The Danish public broadcaster, TV2 reports an interview given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, Mattias Tesfaye (Social Democrats) to Jyllands-Posten, in which he claimed that “a large part of Islam today is represented by Islamists”. Tesfaye pledged that he would try to curb Islamism in Denmark with a number of laws – perhaps an indication of his desire to emulate recent moves in Austria and France. In the interview, Tesfaye also went on to discuss his Government’s ongoing efforts to reduce immigration levels and the challenges of social cohesion. His remarks were criticised by members of other parties including the Enhedslisten (Unity List) and De Radikale (Radicals).
A November 2020 edition (no. 1101) of the Muslim Brotherhood’s, UK-based weekly Arabic newsletter, Risalat al-Ikhwan, drew attention to a report produced by the Europal Forum, which discusses the controversies surrounding antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Europal Forum describes itself as “an independent and non-party political organisation based in London, working to build networks throughout Europe in support of the promotion and realisation of Palestinian rights.” The Dutch former intelligence analyst, Ronald Sandee, and Steven Merley, an investigative expert on Islamist networks, have both identified Europal as aligned ideologically with the Muslim Brotherhood.
COMMENTARY: William Shawcross must put fight against non-violent extremist ideology at the heart of what Prevent does
The announcement that William Shawcross will lead the independent review of Prevent – the Government’s counter-radicalisation programme – is welcome news to all who care about the issues of extremism and radicalisation. His record of standing robustly against the extremist misuse of the charitable sector, during his stint as Chair of the Charity Commission, suggests he is an excellent choice for the job. By appointing Shawcross (a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange, as I am), the Government has indicated the seriousness with which it takes this issue.
The Islamist political party Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) remains active in the UK. In late 2020, HuT Britain reported that it had held “an international online conference on The Return of the Islamic World Order.”
According to the report on this gathering published by HuT, “Speakers showed how the secular capitalist world is incapable of providing coherent solutions for humanity and in fact, lies at the heart of most of the suffering in the world today.”
On 5 January, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Swiss German-language paper of record, offered a valuable review of the long running argument between two distinguished, French academic observers of Islam and Islamisms, Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy. The title of the article reads, “Where does jihadi terror originate? What is the place of Islam in Europe? A French debate that concerns the whole of Europe.” As NZZ describes, the dispute between Kepel and Roy might be described in the following (simplified) way: Kepel believes the problem is the radicalisation of Islam; Roy that it is the Islamisation of violent radicalism. Kepel emphasises the enabling ideology of an evolving Islamism, Roy the discontents arising from exclusion, economic inequity, conflict and so forth. Kepel speaks Arabic, studied in Damascus and Cairo and is an area specialist and political scientist by training, Roy came to the subject through his sociological research in Afghanistan. This explains some of the differences in their approach. As the NZZ suggests, there may be something in the approach of both men. But (the article goes on to say) a more accurate understanding of the issues should matter to all of us. And the piece offers another example of the way this topic is now a matter for public debate in Europe.
Nomen omen – but not always. The High Courts and Courts of Appeal in England and Northern Ireland formed part of the Supreme Court of Judicature before the coming into force of the Constitution Reform Act 2005 and, by and large, there was never a widespread sense of these Courts unduly throwing their weight around. Had they done so, no doubt the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords would have restored matters to their proper bounds.
In Reforming the Supreme Court, Professor Wyatt and Professor Ekins have produced a thoughtful contribution to the ongoing scholarly debate on the correct limits to judicial power; a debate which is, and always has been, driven by political rather than legal priorities. From the 1970s to the 1990s claims of judicial overreach in the UK were made primarily by those on the left such as JAG Griffith, Conor Gearty and Keith Ewing. Their objections to judicial power were underpinned by their views of the judiciary as an instrument of the establishment blocking workers’ rights and undermining civil liberties. After the enactment of the Human Rights Act in 1998, which Ekins rightly identifies as a key moment in changing judicial culture, these critical voices were more muted and concerns about the improper exercise of judicial power were increasingly raised by those on the right. Most recently they have been taken up by the Judicial Power Project.
In our recent paper, Reforming the Supreme Court, Professor Wyatt and I discussed the merits of his proposal to authorise changing panels of Court of Appeal judges to act as the apex appellate court. I noted that my initial view had been that the proposal was too bold, and that it might undermine an important feature of any legal system, which is a stable appellate hierarchy. However, there was clearly much to be said for the proposal, and by way of a series of tentative comments and questions I set out to elaborate and test its merits, concluding that it was an attractive and interesting proposal worthy of serious further consideration. The paper’s publication has generated public discussion, with legal commentators, including Joshua Rozenberg QC (Hon) and Jonathan Fisher QC, for the Society of Conservative Lawyers, addressing its merits in some detail. The government’s plans for reform, at least as reported, may also owe something to the paper’s reflections.
This paper is a sequel to the earlier one published by Policy Exchange entitled “Should the UK Supreme Court be abolished?” A number of commentators, as well as the contributors to this symposium, have discussed my proposal for an extended Final Court of Appeal which would replace the Supreme Court. I thank them all for throwing their caps into the ring, and contributing to a valuable discussion of issues which, as former Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd has said, “need debate.” I thank Professor Ekins, and Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project, for providing a forum for a frank exchange of views. I still think reform is needed, and if not this reform, what?
The debate about the role of judiciary in our democracy, and in particular of the Supreme Court, will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. At root, there is fundamental disagreement about the legitimate function of the judges under the British constitution. At the risk of over-simplistic characterisation, the traditional view is that the court is the handmaiden of Parliament and whilst it can, with appropriate caution, develop the common law, it should genuinely seek to construe legislation, however unpalatable, so as to give effect to the will of Parliament and never to frustrate it.