A multi-million pound strategy to stem the growth of extremism among young Muslims has attracted “suspicions” and “concerns”, a Government minister has acknowledged.
The Prevent strategy is pumping around £20 million a year into programmes designed to prevent violent extremism.
John Denham, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said in a speech that the strategy has been “criticised by those who say it is supporting the very forces that are part of the problem.”
He also referred to other criticism from “within some parts of Muslim communities” as well as by “parts of the civil liberties lobby”.
Mr Denham said that: “Where we have heard constructive criticism, we are willing to listen and to change.” He insisted that “a lot has been achieved in the past year”.
The funding for Muslim groups contrasts with concerns about official coldness to Christian organisations.
Last year the Archbishop of York warned of “a chill wind that blows around grant makers and managers of funds”.
The Archbishop also endorsed an official Church of England report that states: “we were told that Government had consciously decided to focus…almost exclusively on minority religions.”
Rather than refuting the Church of England’s accusations the then-Communities Minister, Hazel Blears, said it was “common sense” for the Government to pay more attention to Islam than Christianity.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme: “It’s just common sense. I would put it as simply as that. If you have a situation where you need to build the resilience of young Muslim men and women to be able to withstand an extremist message then of course you do that kind of work, but it doesn’t mean you do it exclusively.”
A 2008 study by Cambridge University study accused Government ministers of “planning blind” on community projects because they had no evidence of the work Christian groups carried out, despite “focusing intently” on Muslims.