Terrorist Attack: New Zealand - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:46 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Hussein-Ece Baroness Hussein-Ece Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Equalities) 6:46 pm, 18th March 2019

My Lords, I also associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. The absolutely shocking events in Christchurch last Friday sent shockwaves right around the world, particularly in this country—Muslims here were fearful of going to a mosque on Friday as well. It is clear now that Muslims need more than thoughts and prayers because many fear that this can and will very likely happen in the UK.

I am glad the Minister highlighted social media responsibilities. The media and some politicians have created a climate in which far-right ideology and commentary can flourish—by giving platforms to right-wing hate preachers and to journalists who write racist opinion pieces, and to those who support Islamophobia on TV. Words have consequences—these events did not happen in a vacuum—and these are no longer fringe ideologies but ideologies tolerated and dressed up as freedom of speech. Will the online harms White Paper that the Minister mentioned include looking at mainstream media? The comments on online mainstream media pieces, such as those on Mail Online, are equally disgraceful and as disgusting as those on social media. That needs to be seriously looked at.

The Minister mentioned the Prevent programme, but it has, until recently, failed to challenge or change the attitudes of those on the far right. We urgently need an anti-extremism strategy that addresses the subversive far-right activity that has been allowed to flourish. Will the Government use their powers to take direct action to tackle these far-right extremists, and will the review of the Prevent programme investigate how the far right has been mainstreamed? As I mentioned, it has been given regular platforms, especially on channels such as the BBC. Last Friday on “Newsnight”, disgracefully, a hate organisation called Generation Identity was invited to comment on the murders. What will be done about this?