Headlines: January 24th, 2008

Every local authority in England is to get a copy of the first ever code of practice on working with Muslim women. It is being sent out by the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, who is calling on communities and councils to look at what more they can do to give the women a chance to take a greater part in civic society as well as tackling violent extremism.

Hazel Blears said work to increase the number of projects supporting Muslim women in playing a fuller role in their communities needed to be stepped up. Creating resilient communities, she said, would need more projects such as those that increased educational and employment opportunities as well as leadership training and civic empowerment.

She will write to all local authorities, sending them the new good practice guide, ‘Empowering Muslim Women: Case Studies’, and asking them to consider how they can work with local groups that are already engaged with Muslim women who are seen as hard to reach. She said, “Public debate about Muslim women too often reverts to stereotypes and preconceptions. We pay too much attention to Muslim women’s appearance, with the perennial debate about headscarves and veils, and too little to what they say and do.”

The women, she said, had a unique viewpoint on the challenges their communities were facing and so they could play a unique role in tackling the spread of violent extremism. Putting work with them in centre-stage would give the silent majority a voice and make it easier for more empowered, confident women to play a part. She added, “I want to see more done in communities to build the capacity of Muslim women to shape their communities and to engage with disaffected groups. The projects I am highlighting in the good practice guide are designed to support communities and local authorities in considering what more they can do to help Muslim women overcome barriers to greater empowerment.”