Understanding the UK Government’s New Definition of Extremism

In March 2024, the United Kingdom government introduced a revised and comprehensive definition of extremism, marking a pivotal moment in the nation’s ongoing efforts to combat radical ideologies and uphold social cohesion. This updated definition provides a robust framework for identifying and addressing extremist behaviour and ideologies within society.

The previous definitions of extremism primarily focused on violent extremism associated with terrorism. However, recognising the evolving nature of extremism and its diverse manifestations, the UK government embarked on a thorough review to update its definition.

The new definition defines extremism as:

“The promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred, or intolerance, that aims to:

(1) negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or

(2) undermine, overturn, or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or

(3) intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2).”

This definition provides clarity and specificity in identifying extremist ideologies and behaviours while encompassing a broad spectrum of threats to democratic values and social cohesion.

Key components of the new definition include:

1. Promotion of Violent Ideologies: Extremism entails the promotion or advancement of ideologies based on violence, hatred, or intolerance. This includes ideologies that seek to undermine the fundamental rights and freedoms of others, such as freedom of expression, religious freedom, and the right to life.

2. Threats to Democratic Institutions: Extremism aims to undermine, overturn, or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights. This includes ideologies that seek to subvert democratic institutions, processes, and principles, posing a significant threat to the foundation of democratic governance.

3. Creation of Permissive Environment: Extremism intentionally creates a permissive environment for others to achieve the results outlined in the previous points. This includes fostering conditions conducive to violence, discrimination, and the erosion of democratic norms and values.

The release of this new definition underscores the UK government’s unwavering commitment to countering extremism in all its forms, while upholding fundamental rights and freedoms. It provides a comprehensive framework for law enforcement agencies, policymakers, and civil society organisations to identify and address extremist threats effectively.

Addressing the root causes of extremism, including social inequality and marginalisation, remains essential. Efforts to promote inclusion, dialogue, and community engagement are critical in building resilience against extremist narratives and fostering a more cohesive society.

The UK government’s new definition of extremism represents a significant step forward in confronting the complex challenges posed by extremist ideologies. By reaffirming core democratic values and promoting inclusivity and tolerance, it sets a solid foundation for building a resilient and cohesive society. However, its success will depend on how it is implemented, ensuring a balanced approach that respects fundamental rights and freedoms while addressing the underlying drivers of extremism.

Further information regarding the change including behaviours to watch out for can be found on the Government’s website here: