The Government is planning to divert resources away from a project to stem the growth of extremism among young Muslims.
Instead, they want to spread the focus of the Prevent project to include far right groups in order to avoid stigmatising the Muslim community.
But critics have called the plan “dangerous” and say it is simply a bid to win Muslim votes. A former Government adviser said far right groups may be “disgusting” but don’t pose a major terrorist threat.
Explaining the new approach, Communities Secretary John Denham said: “Although the most significant terrorist threat comes from al-Qaida groups or al-Qaida-inspired ideology, there is a perception that government is only interested in violent extremism of one kind.
“This is simply not true – we are working to address all forms of extremism. The existence of violent far-right groups and the rise of the far right means we must adopt consistent principles and a proportionate approach to these issues.”
Community Cohesion Minister Shahid Malik also told Sky News that the label “preventing violent extremism” was to be dropped because “it’s said to stigmatise and perhaps criminalise a whole community, in this case the Muslim community”.
However, the news has prompted criticism from a former adviser to Hazel Blears, who cut ties with groups that refused to denounce violent extremists when she was Communities Secretary.
The adviser, Paul Richards, said far right groups are “disgusting” but didn’t pose a major terrorist threat.
He said it would be “dangerous at a time like this” to draw the focus of the Prevent project away from Muslim extremism.
“The good work by Hazel is being undone in the name of political correctness”, he added.
Labour MP Khalid Mahmood also cautioned against the plan.
“There is an issue with the BNP. They are extremists as well”, he said.
“But they do take part in the political system. I deplore them, but they are trying to get a democratic remit.
“What we need to do is to focus on those people who are acting outside the limits of the political system.
“We know that they exist and it doesn’t make sense to lump them in with the BNP.”