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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 17:27 GMT 18:27 UK
Step up extremism fight - Kelly
Communities secretary Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly spent more than three hours with Muslim leaders
The government and Muslim communities must do more to combat the growth of extremism, communities secretary Ruth Kelly has said.

She said there had been some "sharp" and "challenging" exchanges during more than three hours of talks with Muslim leaders in London.

She denied any link between the rise of extremism and British foreign policy.

But some Muslim leaders called for an urgent rethink in the wake of last week's terror raids.

Khurshid Ahmed, chairman of the British Muslim Forum, who was at one of the meetings, said: "No-one has said that British foreign policy is singularly responsible for what is happening at the moment.

"What we're saying is that there's a massive amount of disquiet about British foreign policy.

"And some of our young people have the perception that this foreign policy is directed against the Muslim world and therefore needs to be looked at.

"And all we're asking for is a review, and - if necessary - a change."

'Challenge'

The meetings were part of fresh government efforts to engage the Muslim community.

We believe that the threat is still external - it is people coming from outside and leading the radicalisation
Khurshid Ahmed
British Muslim Forum

Ms Kelly said she had discussed ways of making sure that if there was frustration, there were "democratic channels for that to be vented".

"There is a battle of hearts and minds to be won within the Muslim community," said the communities secretary.

She said the government had to work with the Muslim community "to take on the terrorist and extremist elements that are sometimes found within it, not just in the Muslim community, but elsewhere as well".

Both ministers and Muslim leaders were trying to boost the more relevant aspects of the action plan drawn up in the wake of the 7 July attacks, she added.

"We have all got to step up to the challenge. We have got to work together. Yes, the Muslim community has got to do more, yes we as government have got more to do," she added.

'Honest debate'

Haras Rafiq, of the recently formed Sufi Muslim Council, called on the government to give more support to those trying to root out extremism.

But he added: "The first thing that we need to do as a community is admit there is a problem.

"It is like being an alcoholic - we need to stand up and say these things and have an open and honest debate."

But Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, the largest umbrella organisation for Muslims in the UK, which includes mosques among its affiliates, said there was already an "acceptance" that extremism existed within "a small section of the community".

HAVE YOUR SAY
I no longer believe that our foreign policy is balanced or considered
Lydia Ebdon, York

"The question is what you do to deal with it. We think the responsibility lies on both sides - the communities and the government," he added.

Among the practical steps urged by Muslim leaders are "de-radicalisation forums" to help young Muslims engage with government policy.

They also want renewed efforts in Britain's universities, to prevent them becoming a recruiting ground for extremists.

Over the coming weeks, ministers from Ms Kelly's department and the home office will visit Muslim communities and local authorities in nine cities across the UK, including London, Bradford, Bolton, Oldham, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Muslim leaders arriving at the talks



SEE ALSO
Analysis: Taking on extremists
14 Aug 06 |  UK Politics

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