This paper identifies and discusses issues in perceptions and definitions of "extremism" and a government's and society's response to it.
"Extremism" is essentially a political term that refers to beliefs and activities that do not reflect the norms of the state and society, are intolerant toward the status quo and diversity, and reject democracy as a means of governing people because of its willingness to give voice and influence to a variety of perspectives and values. So long as "extremism" and its manifestations are not defined and proscribed in law, the state is powerless to restrain or suppress it. Even when extremist acts are defined in penal law, such as in "hate-crime" legislation, it may be difficult to determine whether the motivation of the perpetrator is such that the act meets the stipulations of the law that targets forms of extremism. Extremism is therefore difficult to counter through criminal justice policies and procedures. What is needed is a moral and ideological consensus within a society that exerts informal as well as formal pressure against beliefs, attitudes, and actions that are intolerant and aggressively antagonistic toward that consensus. 8 references