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UK Govt driving Muslims to extremism: Study

Attempts by the Govt to engage with the Muslim community since last year's bomb attacks in London have backfired, a report said.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2006 17:51 IST

Attempts by the British government to engage with the Muslim community since last year's bomb attacks in London have backfired and are not hampering the spread of extremism, a report said on Monday.

Instead of isolating extremist elements, government initiatives had tended to "drive a wedge" between the Muslim population and the wider community, the study by the left-of-centre think-tank Demos said.

The report -- part-funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government -- accused ministers of failing to engage with Muslims over "reasonable" grievances, including British foreign policy in Iraq and elsewhere.

It criticised attempts to involve Muslims in policy-making as "rushed, conducted on the government's terms, failing to break away from 'the usual suspects'" and with little follow through.

"Ministers were assuring Muslim leaders of the need for partnership, but in press briefings they were talking of the need for Muslims to 'get serious' about terrorism, spy on their children and put up with inconveniences in the greater good of national interest," it said.

The government's actions had bred "resentment and alienation" among Muslims, which played into the hands of extremists.

"Despite some commendable attempts at engagement, the government's actions continue to drive a wedge between the majority of British Muslims and the rest of society, rather than isolating the violent few," the report added.

Demos also accused the government of having an overly simplistic characterisation of Muslim communities.

"By viewing Muslims as a single interest group, the government has failed to draw a clear enough distinction between angry Muslim opinion and those that would seek to inflict violence and terror.

"The result is that rather than being isolated, extremists are able to attract support from communities cut adrift from mainstream British society."

The July 7, 2005 attacks in London, which killed 56 people, including the four British Islamic extremist suicide bombers, prompted an urgent re-examination of Britain's much-cherished multi-cultural model and ethnic integration.

A number of reports since then have said British foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East was contributing to extremist views, although Prime Minister Tony Blair and ministers have strongly denied a direct link.

On that point, Demos said ministers had been "highly reluctant" to engage with Muslims, for fear that extremists had "just cause".

Community relations needed to be at the heart of security policy to tackle home-grown extremism, it added.

Local government minister Phil Woolas rejected the report as "flawed" and "out of date", accusing Demos of sensationalism.

"Good community relations is already at the heart of our approach to tackling extremism and we are building strong, positive partnerships to isolate and defeat those who are seeking to harm us," he said.