The Prime Minister warned about the chants after thousands of people took to the streets in London at the weekend as his official spokesman stopped short of saying the law would be beefed up, instead saying Scotland Yard would be given ‘clarity’ about officers’ powers.
Mr Sunak was addressing MPs in the Commons yesterday amid Metropolitan Police Sir Mark Rowley coming under fierce criticism for officers not arresting extremists at pro-Palestinian protests attended by 100,000 people on Saturday.
It comes after officers said they were left ‘frustrated’ at being unable to intervene as people called for jihad during rallies over the weekend.
Earlier, Tory MP Gareth Bacon said British Jews were increasingly feeling unsafe in their own country with the ‘apparent refusal of the Metropolitan Police to do anything about it’ making matters worse.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said chants of ‘jihad’ were a threat to British Jews and Britain’s democracy after ugly scenes at pro-Palestine events in London
There were chants of ‘jihad! jihad! jihad!’ at the Hazib ut-Tahrir rally outside the Egyptian embassy in London on Saturday
Mr Sunak replied: ‘Hateful extremism has no place in our society. Calls for jihad and Muslim armies to rise up are not only a threat to the Jewish community but also a threat to our democratic values.
‘Of course the police are operationally independent, but the home secretary has raised this with them.’
Home Secretary Suella Braverman had a showdown meeting with Sir Mark to challenge him over the decision not to arrest.
The Met’s commissioner hit back at criticism of his officers for failing to intervene to arrest extremists and blamed ministers for the soft policing of anti-Israel protests, insisting police were ‘ruthless’ about tackling demonstrators who stepped over the legal line.
Islamist fanatics from the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir were seen calling for ‘jihad’ at a rally outside the Egyptian Embassy while police stood by. Later, the force tweeted that the term ‘had a number of different meanings’.
Hizb ut-Tahrir is an Islamic fundamentalist group that has called for the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate and for the global implementation of sharia law. It has been banned in almost all Arab countries, as well as Muslim-majority nations such as Turkey, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
A source told The Telegraph officers were told to have a ‘zero tolerance’ to hate crimes at the events, but became frustrated as they were unable to step in when some appeared to incite violence.
During a separate demonstration on Saturday, a man was filmed waving an Islamic flag while reportedly shouting: ‘God’s curse be upon the Jews’ and ‘God’s curse upon Israel’
Protesters during a pro-Palestine march organised by Stop the War Coalition and Palestine Solidarity Campaign in central London on Saturday
The Met later tweeted that the word ‘jihad’ had ‘multiple meanings’. Twitter users added a community note under the Met’s post
The source said: ‘You are very much part of the collective, rather than an individual at these protests and it has been quite frustrating for some officers.’
Sir Mark said troublemakers were able to ‘steer round’ current hate laws.
He said officers were unable to ‘enforce taste or decency’, and complained other countries have introduced ‘more assertive’ anti-extremism laws than those in the UK.
By contrast, Mr Sunak insisted in the Commons that police already have the powers they need to arrest those inciting violence or racial hatred.
Sir Mark said: ‘I think the law around hate crime and terrorism hasn’t taken full account of the ability of extremist groups to steer round those laws and propagate some pretty toxic messages through social media.
‘There are countries around the world with different frameworks that have some advantages.
‘For example Hizb ut-Tahrir, who were protesting over the weekend, with some of their protests causing deep concern, are banned in Germany and most of the Muslim world.
‘There are frameworks which are more assertive than ours and lessons to be learned, but it is for politicians and Parliament to draw the line.’
After a meeting yesterday with Ms Braverman and the Community Security Trust, which deals with the safety of Jewish people, Sir Mark added: ‘We are absolutely ruthless in tackling anybody who puts their foot over the legal line.
‘We are accountable to the law –we can’t enforce taste or decency but we can enforce the law. It’s our job to enforce that line, it’s Parliament’s job to draw that line. Maybe events of the moment are illustrating that some of the lines aren’t in the right place.’
Asked if he agreed police need extra powers, Mr Sunak told MPs: ‘Where there are gaps in the law, we’re happy to address and look at those. But we do believe at the moment the police do have the powers to arrest those who are inciting violence or racial hatred.
‘There is no place on our streets for that type of behaviour and we will work extensively to clarify the guidance to officers on the ground so they are aware fully about the powers and tools that are available to them to make sure these people feel the force of the law.’
Earlier, the Prime Minister’s spokesman indicated there were no plans to change the law.
But sources said the Government will look at public order laws, with police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and ensure ‘we are clear where the lines are drawn’. And the Foreign Secretary hinted the Government will still keep an open mind in the future.
Speaking to LBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday, James Cleverly said: ‘We have passed legislation which enables us to designate Hamas as a terrorist organisation and ban the glorification and promotion of Hamas. If we need to go further, of course, we will go further.’
On Sunday, immigration minister Robert Jenrick said chants at the demo had amounted to ‘inciting terrorist violence’ and should have resulted in arrests.
The Home Secretary’s spokesman issued a placatory statement last night saying she ‘recognised the complexities of the law in policing aspects of these protests’.