Blears launches new extremist crackdown

The communities secretary today launched a £70 million crackdown on religious extremism.

In a break from past initiatives, which have focused on mosques, Hazel Blears said the government will crack down on extremism in “ungoverned spaces,” including gyms, internet forums and cafes.

The government believes 18 to 35-year-old young men are particularly vulnerable to extremist messages, including a significant minority of teenagers.

In a speech today, Ms Blears announced a £25 million national scheme designed to help imans and community leaders communicate with young people and help them reject extremist messages.

This will include new minimum standards for any imams working with young people in public institutions.

A further £45 million will be available to local authorities and community partners.

Internet forums and radio stations will be extended to allow young people to discuss social and political issues in a public space that cannot be hijacked by extremists.

Ms Blear said: “Given the scale and enduring nature of the threat we face, tough security measures are vital. But they cannot be the whole solution.

“We have to overcome this challenge by giving communities the strength and skills to face down a false and perverted ideology.

“This struggle will be with us for years to come, and we must do more to support the next generation in winning it. That is why we will be putting work with young people and Muslim women centre-stage, giving the silent majority a voice.”

The government believes a lack of positive role models leaves a minority of young people vulnerable to extremist messages. Today’s initiative is designed to help communities provide positive alternatives as well as peer mentoring schemes.

One facet of this will be a new nationwide network of Muslim women, who will advise the government and work with communities.

Past government attempts to address extremism have been criticised for relying on older men as the “voice” of communities.