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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Muslims 'must root out extremism'
Muslims in a north London mosque
Muslims involved in consultations feel let down, says Sadiq Khan

The government cannot alone root out extremism in Muslim communities and defeat the terrorism it creates, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

He hit back at claims ministers had done little to win Muslim "hearts and minds" since the 7 July London bombs.

He said he was "probably not the person to go into the Muslim community".

But the former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, told the BBC the government is "very poor" at following through on its "excellent" initiatives.

In an interview with Radio 4's The World Tonight, about integrating the Muslim community into society, he said: "If I'm honest we haven't made enough progress. It's one of the great challenges of government.

We can't defeat this extremism through whatever a government does
Tony Blair

"We never move fast enough. We have excellent initiatives, not soundbites, not some sort of spin, excellent initiatives.

"We're very poor at following them through."

Mr Blunkett added he was disappointed and hurt that moderate Muslims telling young people the message of Islam was peace was somehow perceived as a bad idea.

Mr Blair's comments came in response to Muslim Labour MP Sadiq Khan, who said he was disappointed with the government's engagement with the Muslim community in the year since the London bombings.

'False grievances'

He said there was an air of despondency over the achievements of the special taskforce set up by the government after the bombings.

The prime minister told MPs it was down to moderate Muslims to stand up to extremism and tell those with "grievances" against the West they were wrong.

Appearing before the Commons liaison committee of senior MPs, he said he disagreed that ministers were not trying to work with the Muslim community.

Mr Blair told MPs: "If we want to defeat the extremism, we have got to defeat its ideas and we have got to address the completely false sense of grievance against the West.

Tony Blair and David Blunkett
Blunkett (right) said initiatives too often founder

"In the end, government itself cannot go and root out the extremism in these communities.

"I am probably not the person to go into the Muslim community... It's better that we mobilise the Islamic community itself to do this."

He said there was a "clear and active" threat of further attacks but stressed the "overwhelming majority of Muslims utterly abhor this extremism and are completely on the same side as everybody else in wanting to defeat it".

However, Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Manchester-based group that works with young people in a bid to tackle extremism and terrorism, accused Mr Blair of failing to engage with ordinary young Muslims.

Extremists 'unfair'

And Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said many Muslims believed the UK's involvement in wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were a "key contributory factor in the radicalisation" of some young Muslims.

"That said, it is true that extremists often paint a very unfair picture of the West. We all benefit from freedoms and opportunities here that are not exactly plentiful in many Muslim countries," he added.

A Populus poll for The Times newspaper and ITV news suggests 13% of UK Muslims believe the 7/7 bombers should be regarded as martyrs, with the other 87% disagreeing.

The prime minister said he would not hold a public inquiry into the 7 July attacks, saying it would divert a "vast amount of resources into something that we already know, which is those four people did this".

Seven Muslim working groups were set up by the government and they reported in November.

However, in a speech to the Fabian Society, Sadiq Khan said only three of their recommendations were implemented.

A Home Office spokesman said much had been accomplished since the Preventing Extremism Together (PET) Working Group members had made their final report.




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