Headlines: February 8th, 2007

COUNCILS WARN COMMUNITY COHESION MUST NOT BE THREATENED BY FIGHT AGAINST TERROR

 

A new fund has been set up to help local authorities do more to combat violent extremism in their communities. Councils will also get more guidance but local government leaders have warned that community cohesion must not be put at risk by the pursuit of terrorists.

The new 5 million pound Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund has been announced by the Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly who said this more local approach was a refocusing of the Government’s ‘hearts and minds’ strategy and was designed to build on engagement with traditional leadership groups. Government Offices are to work with about 50 local authorities, mainly in urban areas, on the guidance to develop activities to be supported by the new fund and they will work in partnership with Muslim communities to bring proposals forward.

The guidance will concentrate on helping those communities build resilience to extremist messages and focus on people who are most at risk of being groomed into extreme ideologies. The aim is to develop specific interventions to help those individuals counter the messages they may hear. The Department for Communities and Local Government said local initiatives could include working with people excluded from colleges, schools and mosques to give them the knowledge and confidence to resist extremism. Other possible activities are local forums to help key opinion formers in facing down extremist messages and more training and information for local mosques and madrassahs, on warning signs, extremist tactics and effective responses. Ruth Kelly is also planning to meet individuals seen as having been ‘de-radicalised’ as a result of work in local communities to learn about the most effective strategies.

Speaking for the Local Government Association, Hazel Harding, chair of its Safer Communities Board, said councils shared the Government’s determination to fight terrorism but there had to be a distinction between efforts to deal with terrorist threats, and broader approaches to community cohesion. “If we are not careful, the pursuit of terrorists could put at risk wider cohesion efforts by councils who are working hard to create places where people can thrive, whatever their background. There must be a concerted effort to make sure that the law-abiding majority within the Muslim community feel they have the full support of council leaders,” she said.