Reforms to a multi-million pound scheme to prevent terrorism must not undermine attempts to fight extremism in Muslim communities, according to an MP.
Khalid Mahmood (Lab Perry Barr) issued the warning after the Government announced plans to focus more on threats from the far-right, including the BNP.
The £45 million “preventing violent extremism” programme was set up in 2006 to prevent young Muslims turning to terrorism. But local government minister Shahid Malik has announced that it will now work in deprived “white areas” as well. And it will be re-branded, following reports that some Muslims found the name offensive.
Think tank The New Local Government Network has published a report warning the scheme risked backfiring as some Muslim communities felt stigmatised by it.
Mr Mahmood said: “There is an issue with the BNP. They are extremists as well. But they do take part in the political system. I deplore them, but they are trying to get a democratic remit. What we need to do is to focus on those people who are acting outside the limits of the political system. We know that they exist and it doesn’t make sense to lump them in with the BNP.”
Although al Qaida-inspired terror remains the UK’s main concern, Scotland Yard has switched some officers to monitor a recent surge in the number of suspected far-right plotters.
More than 30 people were arrested over the weekend in Birmingham after violent clashes between Union flag-waving anti-Islamic fundamentalist protesters and Unite Against Fascism marchers.
The NLGN report was written by its deputy director Anna Turley, a former special adviser to David Blunkett, who said the Prevent scheme had enjoyed some notable success in its work with mosques. But she said its unique focus on Muslim communities had fostered resentment in some areas.