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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2007, 14:45 GMT
Internet used to target extremism
Young men are most susceptible to extremism, Ms Blears said
Efforts to tackle extremism among young British Muslims must be centred on the internet as well as on mosques, the communities secretary has said.

Hazel Blears said 70m in funding to undermine extremist influences would be used to set up websites to encourage young Muslims to talk about identity.

The funding aims to target the most susceptible group - men from 16 to 35.

Ms Blears said she was also setting up a panel of Muslim women to act as role models and to advise ministers.

Ms Blear said that, while it was essential to ensure mosques were at the forefront of the battle against extremism, new ways of beating the ever-evolving recruitment methods of extremists must be found.

In some cases, people are isolated from family and friends, indoctrinated and manipulated within a matter of months
Hazel Blears

"They use slick media campaigns, reaching out through the internet," she told a conference in London.

"Predominantly they target young men, with a significant number in their teens."

This was done in "ungoverned spaces" including on the internet and in bookshops, snooker halls and clubs, she said.

She warned that the process of radicalisation could be rapid.

"In some cases, people are isolated from family and friends, indoctrinated and manipulated within a matter of months."

By setting up local web-based projects where young Muslims can talk about their identities and grievances, it was hoped they would be less likely to be attracted to other sites run by radical groups, she said.

Schemes to provide peer mentoring and support for students in higher education have also been suggested.

She also promised that imams working in places like prisons, hospitals and universities would be trained to offer support to their vulnerable charges.

National schemes

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the government had acknowledged that its previous strategy of dealing mainly with a few, large Muslim organisations had sometimes cut it off from groups with the greatest influence over young Muslims.

Of the 70m funding, 25m will be spent on national schemes including training imams and teaching citizenship in mosque schools.

"It's important to get much better at working with children and young people," Ms Blears said.

"By getting in early, by helping them understand their religion, equipping them with the confidence and skills to challenge and reject those preaching conflict, we can make today and tomorrow's communities more resilient to the violent extremist message."

The other 45m will be allocated to local partnerships over the next three years to be spent on promoting community leadership to withstand extremism.

The new advisory panel of Muslim women is designed to give them a voice on similar issues.

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