Government wants British Muslims' hearts and minds

The government has unveiled legislative proposals aimed at preventing violent extremism spreading in British Muslim communities.

Communities secretary Ruth Kelly today launched the action plan, pledging to win the "hearts and minds" of young Muslims and make them less susceptible to "takeover" by extremists.

Among the proposals are a new role for the charity commission in improving governance in mosques, as well as creating a new standards framework for imams and getting citizenship lessons taught in Islamic schools (madrasas).

Ms Kelly's plans come as a new independent study into radicalisation in local communities by Muslim academic Tufyal Choudhury claims that extremist tactics "still involve targeting vulnerable young people searching for identity during times of crisis".

"I do not under-estimate the difficulties we face or the scale of this challenge. But I know from my conversations with Muslim communities up and down the country that the desire and commitment to tackle extremism is there," commented the communities secretary.

"Success today will hinge on forging a new alliance against violent extremism. We need to reach out and give greater support to the overwhelming majority who are disgusted by terrorist attacks carried out in the name of Islam."

She went on to say: "We need to support people in building communities where extremism is resolutely tackled and isolated, and where all doors are shut to those who seek division and violence."

But the communities secretary's plans have been seized upon by opposition politicians as more evidence of the government's preoccupation for favouring initiatives over action.

"It is long past time the government stopped talking and started to show some resolution," commented shadow home secretary David Davis.

"They should use the laws we already have – including the offences of incitement to commit murder and racial hatred – to actually deal with those who preach hate," he continued.

And Liberal Democrat communities spokesman Andrew Stunell said the proposals were "disastrous".

"The government will not win hearts and minds if it continues to associate the word Muslim with terrorism," he claimed.

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