CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

CLG – UN-ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS – 20 May 2008

[The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears): ... We are about to embark on a three-year programme involving £45 million for local authorities, so I am absolutely determined to ensure that we will fund projects that really help to build the resilience of local communities. The local police are closely involved with local authorities in making these funding decisions at local level. The Government offices are being strengthened to ensure that there is extra reassurance. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, despite the fact that this money is, in general, local government grant, I want to make absolutely sure that after 12 months we look at the situation again.

On the organisation to which the right hon. Gentleman (David Heathcoat-Amory) referred [the Muslim Brotherhood], I am extremely keen to ensure that we continue with our policy of engaging with the groups that are prepared to stand up and tackle and condemn extremism. That will be the continuing policy, and wherever people are not in that category, they are not groups with which we wish to collaborate in our endeavours to tackle extremism.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I am encouraged by that response. Will the Secretary of State confirm that part of the money allocated to this programme will be used to try to convey to young Muslim people the message of senior Muslim scholars that the use of violent extremism in political causes is essentially un-Islamic?

[Ms Blears: The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point, and a key part of our strategy is to tackle the ideology perpetrated by extremists. It is absolutely vital that young people but also women have the ability, knowledge and skills to stand up and combat these messages. That is why we have an extensive programme of work with women. There is the National Muslim Women's Advisory Group, and I intend to have a similar group of young people who will be empowered to take on leadership roles and to play a much larger part in their communities. This is the point at which we move from simply projects that reach a few people, to trying to get the message across not just to the Muslim community but to all our communities that it is the voice of the overriding, law-abiding majority that we must hear, and that we must tackle this ideology, which threatens our communities.]