The backlash against the appointment of Sara Khan as the Government’s anti-extremism tsar grew today as 100 Muslim groups united to oppose it.
Ms Khan is due to run the newly created Commission for Countering Extremism from next month but she has been dismissed as a ‘mouthpiece for the Home Office’.
The post is intended to be an independent watchdog advising government on the best ways to tackle extremism in Britain.
Ms Khan is co-founder of Inspire, a counter-extremism and human rights organisation. Her website describes her as ‘one of the UK’s leading Muslim female voices on countering Islamist extremism and promoting human rights’.
The backlash against the appointment of Sara Khan (file image) as the Government’s anti-extremism tsar grew today as 100 Muslim groups united to oppose it
A petition to the Home Office signed by 100 Muslim organisations and scholars called for her to be removed from her new role as head of the Commission for Countering Extremism.
The Muslim Council of Britain expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the appointment.
Harun Khan, secretary general, said: ‘The fight against terrorism requires equal partnership between all parties, including Muslim communities.
‘This appointment risks sending a clear and alarming message that the Government has no intention of doing so.’
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation think tank, described Ms Khan’s appointment as ‘a smack in the face of thousands who view her as part of the problem and not the solution’.
‘Appointing someone who is so toxic in the Muslim community frankly makes the Commission useless before it starts,’ said Mr Shafiq. ‘We call on the Government to reconsider this ill advised appointment.’
Harun Khan, secretary general of Muslim Council of Britain expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the appointment
Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi led cross-party criticism as she described the move as ‘a deeply disturbing appointment’.
She wrote on Twitter: ‘Sara is sadly seen by many as simply a creation of and mouthpiece for the Home Office.’
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: ‘The appointment of Sara Khan has drawn cross-party criticism. It seems to be a very ill-advised appointment, based on the widespread perception that she has only come to prominence because of her support for the Government’s Prevent strategy.
‘It is not an appointment that will build confidence across our communities.’
But a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May insisted Ms Khan is ‘expertly qualified’ to lead the Commission’s work and she will ‘bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the commission.’
Former Tory chairwoman Baroness Warsi led cross-party criticism as she described the move as ‘a deeply disturbing appointment’
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said it was a ‘very ill-advised appointment’ and urged the Government to think again
Dame Louise Casey praised the ‘really important appointment’ of Ms Khan.
The Government’s former integration tsar told the Press Association: ‘She doesn’t deny there is a problem…I think she has enormous courage, I think she is fiercely independent.’
Discussing the appointment on Twitter, David Anderson QC, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: ‘I for one will be giving Sara a fair chance, and wishing her the good luck that I suspect she will need!
‘The idea that she is a Government stooge is hard to reconcile with her opposition (strongly shared by me) to its ill-advised 2015/16 plans for a Counter-Extremism Bill.’
Plans to set up the commission were announced by Prime Minister Theresa May after the Manchester bombing in May last year – one of five terror attacks to hit Britain in 2017.
The body will be tasked with identifying and challenging all forms of extremism, advising ministers on new policies and promoting ‘pluralistic British values’.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced Ms Khan’s appointment on Wednesday and the Government has insisted she is ‘expertly qualified’ for the post
Its remit is also expected to include helping train schools and colleges to spot warning signs and ensuring women’s rights are upheld.
Announcing the appointment, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: ‘The Commission for Countering Extremism will form a crucial part of this Government’s work to stop the scourge of extremism in all its forms and Sara Khan is expertly qualified to lead its important work.
‘She will bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the commission which will prove vital as it works to identify and challenge extremism and provide independent advice to the Government.’
Ms Khan is expected to take her post in the next month. The appointment is for a period of three years.