Funding reserved for ‘proactive’ Muslim groups

The allocation of government funding will “shift significantly” towards those Muslim groups that are proactively working to combat extremism, Ruth Kelly has announced.

The communities and local government secretary said she would work more closely with those groups who “show through their words and actions they are determined to take on the extremists and defend values that the vast majority of us share”.

Ms Kelly argued there was a “battle of ideas” that had to be won to fight terrorism, which meant standing up for British values such as freedom of speech and the rule of law.

Everyone had a part of play, she told Muslim groups in London today, but stressed: “It’s not good enough to merely sit on the sidelines or pay lip service to fighting extremism.

“That is why I want a fundamental rebalancing of our relationship with Muslim organisations from now on.”

Although Ms Kelly said she had engaged with a wide range of Muslim organisations over the past few months, her attentions would now focus on groups promoting “good quality teaching” of Islam and de-radicalisation programmes.

“I am clear that our strategy of funding and engagement must shift significantly towards those organisations that are taking a proactive leadership role in tackling extremism and defending our shared values,” she said.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told it was right the government should speak to a wide range of organisations, adding that the council itself represented a variety of opinions within the community.

“But if they only seek out voices that will parrot the government’s own thinking then that is not a particularly productive exercise and it will not have much credibility with the Muslim community. They need an honest relationship with British Muslims,” he said.

The chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Massoud Shadjareh, was less diplomatic, accusing ministers of using their “financial muscle to socially engineer a new brand of Islam which will be subservient to its foreign policy”.

“Ms Kelly should be genuinely honest and recognise that there is a tremendous commitment to a multicultural multi-religious Britain throughout the Muslim community irrespective of its diverse views on foreign and domestic policy,” he said.

The leader of the Muslim parliament, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, told that the government’s emphasis should be on tackling deprivation, particularly among Bangladesh and Pakistan communities, as this was the “core” issue behind extremism.

“Unless we take our young people from deprivation then they will always be victims to some kind of extremism,” he said.

Mr Siddiqui added: “Whatever those [Muslim] groups do will always be marginal to the core problem you face – you have to take people out of deprivation. They are sitting targets for all kind of demagogues.”