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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 August 2006, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Muslims 'in denial' on extremism
Shahid Malik
Mr Malik urges Muslims to challenge extremism
British Muslims are "in denial" about extremism in their own community, Labour MP Shahid Malik has said.

He urged Muslims to "wake up" and "take responsibility" for challenging "twisted" interpretations of Islam.

Muslims were "frustrated and angry" about UK foreign policy but that did not excuse terrorism, said Mr Malik.

He was one of three Muslim Labour MPs to meet deputy prime minister John Prescott, as the government stepped up efforts to tackle extremism.

Glasgow MP Mohammed Sarwar said the meeting had seen a "frank exchange of words".

Concerns had been raised about the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and the recent Forest Gate raid among other issues, he said.

"The huge challenge is how we can regain trust in the Muslim community. I think we should be honest and straight with people." he added.

Cameron criticism

Mr Sarwar, who like Mr Malik signed a letter from leading Muslims criticising the government's foreign policy, said it was not just Muslims who were "outraged" by Britain's stance in the Middle East.

"I believe all communities are united on this issue," he told Sky News.

What we mustn't do is start to turn in on ourselves
Shahid Malik

Mr Malik, meanwhile, said some Muslims were in denial - or even "in denial about being in denial" - about the growth of a "twisted" interpretation of Islam.

But he added: "What we mustn't do is start to turn in on ourselves and start to target individual groups, because it is a collective fight.

"These people [the extremists] don't represent Islam; they represent evil and as such they are the enemy of all of us in this country."

Khalid Mahmood, who also met Mr Prescott but did not sign the letter criticising foreign policy, said people "would use everything that was available" to justify terrorism.

But he joined Mr Prescott and Mr Malik in attacking Conservative leader David Cameron, who has accused the government of not doing enough to fight terrorism.

Funding freeze

Mr Mahmood told BBC News 24: "I think David should have stayed on holiday for the contribution he is making.

"It's complete nonsense when you look at all the legislation over the past few years which the Conservative Party have wholly opposed in Parliament."

Mr Cameron criticised a funding freeze planned for the Home Office, and said intercept evidence should be allowed in courts.

And he called for tougher action to deport "preachers of hate" and enforce existing anti-terror laws.

Mr Prescott said the Conservative leader's comments were "almost beyond belief" and "undermined unity" at a time "when we should all stand united".

Speaking earlier, defence secretary Des Browne said he did not accept that British foreign policy was "some kind of reason" for the radicalisation of Muslims.

'Grievances'

He said that such an analysis was based on a distorted view of foreign policy and that it could not account for why members of the community might become "indiscriminate terrorist killers".

But he acknowledged that foreign policy gave "a new focus to people in terms of the way they want to present this particular problem".

"I don't believe that it changes people's minds. I believe that it may give them a focus around which they want to frame their grievances.

"And I think it's explained to some degree by people looking to find another argument for their own opposition to our foreign policy."

The government has said it is stepping up efforts to engage with the Muslim community in the wake of last week's terror raids.

Over the coming weeks, ministers will visit Muslim communities and local authorities in nine cities across the UK, including London, Bradford, Bolton, Oldham, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.




SEE ALSO
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14 Aug 06 |  UK Politics

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