Stoking the debate over the balance between security and civil liberties, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to seek broad new police powers to combat the radicalization of Muslims in Britain and to end what he termed “passive” tolerance of extremism.
Mr. Cameron’s office said the proposals included a new system under which the police would be able to apply for “disruption orders” allowing them to restrict the activities of those thought to be radicalizing people. The orders would be overseen by the courts. Other measures likely to be revived by the British government include updating laws on the retention of records of phone calls, emails and other data, a plan that critics have called the “snoopers’ charter.”
The British proposals were drawn up after the murder in May 2013 of a British soldier, Lee Rigby, in a vicious daylight attack on a street in southeast London. Since then, a significant number of Britons are thought to have left the country to fight with jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq, and security officials are worried that some of them could return with training and motivation to carry out attacks at home.
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society,” Mr. Cameron said in comments released by his office. He added that by appearing to stand neutral between different values, society had “helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.”
Critics contend that the measures could drive radicals underground, allow a new category of individuals to be defined as extremists and undermine some of the liberties that underpin democracy.