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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 January 2008, 19:53 GMT
Course offer 'to fight extremism'
Muslim women in Birmingham, 2007
The government wants Muslim women to have a stronger civic role
Muslim women are to be offered courses and training in an attempt to fight extremism in their communities, the government has said.

They will be paid from a 70m government fund to combat extremism.

The courses are part of a campaign to get more Muslim participation in the UK's civic life.

A Communities and Local Government spokesman said the programme will also offer community leadership courses for women and mentoring for Muslim youths.

'Greater civic partnership'

Women could be offered work placements with business leaders and successful athletes, while money will be made available for Muslim women's groups to provide a safe space for discussion.

The government's strategy is about "about promoting greater civic partnership and employment opportunities alongside efforts to curb extremism," the spokesman said.

Muslim women have actually told us that they want to play a greater role in civic life
Communities and Local Government spokesman

It will also attempt to persuade Muslim women to become magistrates, local councillors or school governors.

The government's plans, which are yet to be finalised, have angered some Muslim groups.

Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told the Sunday Times: "The government at first wanted our imams to act as spies on young British Muslims and now they seem to want Muslim women to do the same."

'No-go areas'

The government spokesman said: "Most people do recognise that it is important we support women to play a full role in society. It's a shame the MCB don't seem to agree. This has absolutely nothing to do with 'spying' as has been claimed.

"Muslim women have actually told us that they want to play a greater role in civic life and their communities as well as in confronting the arguments of the small minority of violent extremists who seek to divide us.

"It is therefore right we empower and support Muslim women in providing them with the skills to do this."

He said the campaign was about giving the "silent majority" more of a voice in their communities and making sure people could withstand the messages of extremists preaching division and hatred.

Meanwhile, a Church of England bishop has said Islamic extremism has turned some communities into no-go areas for people of a different faith or race.

The Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, said non-Muslims may find it difficult to live or work in some areas.



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