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Islamist Extremism

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

Tackling Islamist extremism has a cross-departmental focus. My Department is leading the Government’s work on engaging with Muslim communities to acknowledge and tackle Islamist extremism at the grassroots. With an expanding network of Muslim partners, we are developing communities that condemn and isolate extremist activity.

In a blaze of publicity the Government set up the Muslim taskforce, which made 64 recommendations. Why have the Government implemented only three of them?

That is a complete myth. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that following the attacks, the Government tried to engage with the Muslim community and set up a process called the preventing extremism together taskforce. Action has been agreed on all but three of the 27 recommendations that were addressed to Government. Indeed, the Government are taking forward action to develop forums against extremism across the country, have developed road shows for Islamic scholars in which 30,000 young people have already participated—the target is 100,000—and, together with the Muslim community, have promoted MINAB, the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Body, to regulate mosques and imams.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on her thoughtful speech on 11 October and her desire to develop relationships with a wider network of Muslim organisations. Does she share the concerns of many that the Muslim Council of Britain, in its refusal to participate in holocaust memorial day and its support for extremist ideologues such as Abul Ala Mawdudi, is not helping us to confront Islamist extremism but has instead helped to nurture it?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. The scale of the threat that we face, both in this country and globally, has increased substantially since 9/11, 7/7 and the terror plots of earlier this summer. It is right that we ask more of our partners in the Muslim community, and more of people of other faiths and none. We face a shared problem, and we need to show real leadership as we ask people to face up to the size of the challenge. They must speak out for our shared values and challenge extremism wherever they find it. I will work with any organisation that will challenge extremism and speak out in defence of our shared values.

The hon. Member for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Gauke) asked about holocaust memorial day. I said recently that I found it unusual and surprising that an organisation professing to support our common humanity and to defend our shared values would choose not to support holocaust memorial day. There are signs that the Muslim Council of Britain is beginning to rethink its approach, and I welcome that.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will welcome today’s conviction of Dhiren Barot for the heinous plot that he wanted to carry out in London, and that she will wish to congratulate the police and security services. In her magnificent keynote speech on 11 October, she talked about common values—

Order. I know that these are very important matters, but the hon. Gentleman may put only a brief question to the Secretary of State. He has done that, and now the right hon. Lady will answer.

I welcome the comments that my hon. Friend makes. The recent arrest and trial of the person to whom he refers illustrates the wider point that we in this country face a really severe threat. We must face up to the size of that threat, and continually strive to do more. We must accelerate our efforts to work with the Muslim and other communities, and we need to bring in wider partners to help us do that. We need to be clear about what are this country’s non-negotiable values. Recently, I attempted to define them, but respect—for others, for life and for the rule of law—is at the heart of what British society stands for. It is also at the heart of the mainstream faiths, and it affects everything and everyone in our society today.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should all warmly welcome the life sentence that has been passed today, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Malik) noted? The judge has made it clear that the person concerned must serve at least 40 years in prison. Should not that be a lesson and a warning to anyone who wants to bring terrorism and destruction to our country and our people?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We must have the appropriate security response to the threat that Muslims and non-Muslims in this country face. However, security responses alone are not sufficient, as we must also win the battle for hearts and minds that is the heart and essence of what we stand for. As a country, we must be prepared to welcome people of all faiths, and recognise the real and rich contribution that British Muslims make to our society. We must work with those who want to show leadership to make sure that all can benefit from a safe environment in the future.