Khan review on threats to social cohesion and democratic resilience

Khan review

Dame Sara Khan was appointed by the Prime Minister as the government’s Independent Adviser for Social Cohesion and Resilience in March 2021. She was tasked with producing an independent Review with recommendations to build resilience against extremism, understand its impact, and better support its victims.

The Khan Review, “Threats to Social Cohesion and Democratic Resilience”, was published in March 2024. It concluded that there are significant challenges that impact social cohesion and the wellbeing of democracy.

These include threats coming from within the country such as disillusionment with democracy and distrust of institutions and the political elite. According to the review these tensions are exploited by extremists and other malign actors to breed further division.

The review further found that what it termed ‘freedom-restricting harassment’ has become widespread and is corroding social cohesion and democratic rights and freedoms. Polling found that 76% of the public reported having restricted expressing their personal views in public, for fear of receiving such harassment.  

It recommended that the Government should establish and fund an independent, impartial Office for Social Cohesion and Democratic Resilience which would produce an annual assessment of the state of cohesion and democratic resilience nationally. It also recommended that the Government should publish a five year cohesion and resilience strategy, and establish a cross-Whitehall Cohesion Response Unit.  

New definition of extremism

On 14 March, the Government published its new definition of extremism:

Extremism is the promotion or advancement of an ideology based on violence, hatred or intolerance, that aims to:

  • negate or destroy the fundamental rights and freedoms of others; or
  • undermine, overturn or replace the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy and democratic rights; or
  • intentionally create a permissive environment for others to achieve the results in (1) or (2).

It said that the threat from extremism had been growing for many years and that the “pervasiveness of extremist ideologies in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Israel on 7 October 2023 highlighted the need for further action”.

It explained that groups are operating that are not proscribed and do not meet the threshold for terrorism, but are seeking to replace democracy with an Islamist or neo-Nazi society. It identified the potential consequences of extremism as: the radicalisation of individuals; denying people their full rights and opportunities; supressing freedom of expression; inciting hatred; eroding democratic institutions, social capital and cohesion; and, acts of terrorism.     

The new definition, together with a set of cross-government engagement principles for government departments, are the first in a series of new measures to counter extremism and religious hatred and promote social cohesion and democratic resilience.

The Government has said that it is seeking to strike “a proportionate balance between protecting our democratic right to freedom of expression and belief, and not curtailing the civil liberties and rights of people in the UK, whilst safeguarding them and our democratic institutions against the wide-ranging harms of extremism”.

In his statement to the House of Commons, Michael Gove said that the Government deemed it critical when working with civil society that it did not unwittingly fund or support extremist organisations or individuals. He said that the Shawcross review of Prevent (see below) had found evidence that engagement with figures of potential extremism concern has inadvertently provided a platform, funding or legitimacy for groups or individuals who oppose shared values.

Government departments will be prevented from engaging with or funding groups and individuals caught by the new definition. A new centre for excellence will be established within the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities to decide who would meet the new definition.

Mr Gove said that the definition would not affect gender-critical campaigners, religious conservatives, trans activists, environmental protestors, or those exercising their free speech rights.

He identified the British National Socialist Movement and Patriotic Alliance as promoters of neo-Nazi ideology who give rise to concerns and would be assessed against the new definition.

The Muslim Association of Britain, CAGE and Mend were identified as Islamist organisations giving rise to concerns.

Further reading

Parliamentary material


Extremism Definition and Community Engagement , House of Lords debate, 19 Mar 2024

Extremism Definition and Community Engagement , House of Commons debate, 14 Mar 2024


House of Commons Statement HCWS342 [on New Extremism Definition and Community Engagement Principles], made on 14 March 2024

House of Commons Statement HCWS265 [on Independent Review of Prevent – One year on progress report], made on 20 Feb 2024

Parliamentary questions

House of Lords UIN HL3430 [on Radicalism], answered 04 Apr 2024

House of Lords UIN HL1055 [on Police: Community Relations], answered 21 Dec 2023

House of Commons UIN 190747 [on Independent Review into Civil Unrest in Leicester], answered 28 Jun 2023

More parliamentary questions on radicalism

Committee material

Government proposals on extremism  Human Rights (Joint Committee) oral evidence, HC 645 2023-24, 20 Mar 2024 

Prevent review. Home Affairs Committee oral evidence, HC 1223 2022-23, 22 Mar 2023


Humanists UK welcomes Khan’s Social Cohesion Review, Humanists UK, 27 March 2024

The Khan review gives BLM a free pass, UnHerd, 27 March 2024

Michael Gove pledges to take on ‘freedom-restricting harassment’, Times, 25 2024

Khan review of social cohesion – LGA response, Local Government Association, 25 March 2024

ASCL response to Khan review into social cohesion, Association of School and College Leaders, 25 March 2024

Khan Review: Provide more help for threatened teachers, Tes, 25 March 2024

Councils should do more to handle threat of poor social cohesion, independent review says, Local Government Lawyer, 25 March 2024

UK democratic rights under threat, says government adviser on social cohesion, Financial Times, 25 March 2024

Schools need protest exclusion zones, government adviser says, BBC, 25 March 2025

Calling Gaza protesters extremist risks dividing UK, says government adviser, Guardian, 08 March 2024

Is Britain really in the grip of extremism or mob rule?, Guardian, 08 March 2024

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