The home secretary, Sajid Javid, will say in a speech that public figures must moderate their language as part of the fight against extremism, noting that he “knows what it’s like to be told to go back to where I came from”.
His comments appear to be a jibe at Donald Trump, after the US president told four congresswomen of colour, all of whom are US citizens, to “go back home” to other countries.
Friday’s speech in London also comes as Boris Johnson faces renewed scrutiny for controversial past remarks as he runs to be the leader of the Conservative party and the UK’s next prime minister.
Johnson’s choice of language has frequently been challenged, including when he referred to the former US president Barack Obama as “part-Kenyan”, when he wrote a poem in the same year about the Turkish president having sex with a goat, and when he referred in 2002 to Commonwealth residents as flag-waving piccaninnies.
It emerged this week that he once argued in an essay that Islam had caused the Muslim world to be “literally centuries behind” the west.
Javid, the son of an immigrant and of Muslim heritage, will argue that everybody has a part to play to stop extremists spreading poisonous narratives.
“If we are to stop extremism in its tracks we must have the courage to confront it, the strength to take decisive action and the foresight to tackle the root causes,” he will say. “Public discourse is hardening and becoming less constructive. Everyone has a part to play: broadcasters who must not give a platform to extremists, police who must swoop on the worst offenders, public figures who must moderate their language.”
Alluding to Trump’s tweets this week, he will add: “I’m from an immigrant family, I know what it’s like to be told to go back to where I came from. We must confront the myths about immigration that extremists use to drive divisions. We know the scale is exaggerated to stoke up fear and that they use immigration as a proxy for race.
“Anyone can challenge the myths peddled by extremists that deepen divisions. So tell your friends, shout it loud and proud: people from minority backgrounds did not steal our jobs, they’re not terrorists, that there is no global ‘Zionist conspiracy’.”
The speech is one of the first major interventions on extremism since Theresa May as home secretary launched a counter–extremism strategy in 2015. It comes as a survey by the Commission for Countering Extremism found 52% of respondents had witnessed extremism. Of these respondents, 45% said it had occurred online.
The Home Office said Javid would detail a three-pronged approach of confronting extremist narratives, strengthening communities’ resilience to poisonous ideologies and tackling causes before they can spread.
Trump posted a number of racist tweets on Sunday aimed at four Democratic congresswomen – Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib – calling them “hate-filled extremists” and telling them to “go back” to other countries.
Omar is a naturalised refugee who arrived from Somalia as a child, while the other three women are US-born. On Wednesday the crowd at a Trump rally chanted “Send her back! Send her back!” in reference to Omar.