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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 06:00 GMT
Pilot projects target extremism
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News home affairs

Ruth Kelly meeting Muslim leaders on 14 August
Ruth Kelly: Meeting more Muslim groups
Pilot projects to root out Islamist extremists grooming young Muslims are being planned for British cities.

The government says local authorities will be able to bid for 5m for trial schemes to help Muslim communities tackle the threat of extremism.

Local groups are being asked to come up with ideas for projects such as anti-extremism forums.

Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly said the battle for hearts and minds could only be won at grassroots level.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has been charged with developing a strategy to tackle extremism after the government was criticised for not doing enough in the year after the July 2005 London bombings.

Since then, Ms Kelly's department has been holding talks with a broader range of Muslim organisations and thinkers, having accepted it had previously relied too heavily on groups traditionally seen as community leaders.

One of the groups that has fallen out of favour is the Muslim Council of Britain, the main umbrella body.

Some of the new groups holding talks in Whitehall have urged ministers to shift their focus from major government-initiated projects on extremism to grassroots action.

Up to 50 local authorities are now being asked to work with Muslim communities to come up with schemes that could be repeated nationwide.

'New partnership'

"We need a new, strengthened partnership and unity of purpose to isolate those who seek to divide us," said Ms Kelly.

Youth exclusion schemes to prevent grooming
Anti-extremism forums
Local leadership projects
Training for mosques
School twinning
Volunteering projects

"There are many people in Muslim communities who are already taking a brave stand and doing incredible work. It's important we do more to support them specifically through local authorities and organisations who know their communities best."

Among the ideas being floated are schemes to target alienated young men who may be vulnerable to grooming by extremists because they do not attend local mosques, have jobs or go to college.

Another proposal is a network of local anti-radicalisation forums which would be charged with countering extremist street politics and interpretations of holy texts.

The government also wants to see leadership projects for Imams and Muslim women alongside training and information for Islamic institutions to help them spot the warning signs.

Khurshid Ahmed, chairman of the British Muslim Forum, based in the West Midlands, said he welcomed the change in government tactics - but added that more needed to be done, particularly to support young Muslims trying to run their own deradicalisation programmes.

"We welcome any initiative that puts resources into local communities to tackle the issues that we face.

"But we need a lot more money than this. Extremism is like a virus that needs a very strong dose of vaccine in order to be dealt with. While 5m is a start, we could spend 5m in Birmingham alone.

"We need a holistic approach and that means dealing with very serious problems in all communities such as alienated youth - be they white men influenced by the BNP or Muslim youths influenced by ideological extremism."

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