Politics

Anti-extremism curriculum gets cold reception from UK government

A senior Islamic scholar yesterday unveiled a comprehensive anti-extremism curriculum for UK schools, but the launch, held in Westminster and well-attended by Muslim leaders, fell on deaf ears with representatives from the UK government declining to attend, despite a call for greater efforts to combat radicalisation by Prime Minister David Cameron last week.

The home secretary, Theresa May and the head of counter-terrorism in the UK, Charles Farr, were both invited to the launch of the curriculum which its authorclaims can successfully tackle extremist thinking, such as that propagated by the Islamic State, "on a theological and ideological front", but neither attended. The Home Office today declined to comment on the curriculum.

Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who is an Islamic scholar and outspoken critic of Islamic extremism, held the event in Central Hall, Westminster, to launch his 900-page curriculum, called 'Islamic Curriculum on Peace & Counter Terrorism', for mosques and schools. Tahir-ul-Qadri claims that trial classes in mosques in London, Bradford and Birmingham, which used the syllabus were a great success.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the former minister who resigned from the previous government over its stance on the Gaza conflict last summer, attended the event and called on governments to adopt the curriculum. Last week she criticised Cameron's speech, which called on the Muslim community to be more proactive in combating extremism, saying that a more collaborative approach was needed.

Speaking at a conference in Slovakia, the prime minister said the problem of radicalisation was in-part attributable to Muslims who "quietly condone" groups such as Isis. "I am clear that one of the reasons [people become radicalised] is that there are people who hold some of these views, who don't go as far as advocating violence," he said, "But who do buy into some of these prejudices giving the extreme Islamist narrative weight."

Baroness Warsi was keen to point out that this event showed the Muslim community doing the opposite.

Shahid Mursaleen, spokesman for Minhaj-ul-Quran International (MQI) a global non-governmental organization which worked on the campaign to roll out the curriculum in mosques, says it is already showing to be effective in tackling extremism on a local level in mosques, with mosques taking on about 40 or 50 students a day in de-radicalisation classes.

Mursaleen told Newsweek: "The government has an issue in understanding the basic theological background of the problem of radicalisation," arguing that what is needed are "logical, Quranic arguments to expose Isis's lies".

"[Moderate Muslim voices] can give the government the theological arguments for state schools to adopt which can dismantle Isis," he added.

Mursaleen said that the event was well-attended with endorsements for the curriculum coming from campaign groups, such as British Muslim Youth, the Ramadan Foundation and the founder and director of NGO Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal.

Mursaleen says that his organisation has had no contact with the government, adding that state backing "would certainly help address the radicalisation issue and build community cohesion".

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