By politics.co.uk staff
The government's flagship scheme to tackle Islamic extremism is alienating Muslim communities across Britain, it has been claimed.
The £45 million Prevent programme funds 94 local authorities, ostensibly so they can tackle violent extremism at ground level, but the New Local Government Network (NLGN) has lambasted the scheme as counter-productive, badly set-up and politically ignorant.
In an independent report published today, the NLGN derided the government for focusing exclusively on Islamic extremism, when far-right violence is an equal or greater threat.
"While Islamist extremism remains a very serious threat to our security, this kind of extremism is not the only threat to the stability and security of our communities," said the report's author, Anna Turley.
The government responded positively to the report, with cohesion minister Shahid Malik quickly accepting its recommendations.
"It's not just about the Muslims; it's actually about everybody in our society having a role to play," he said.
"We cannot dismiss or under-estimate the threat from the far-right and we've seen recently a number of cases where there have been convictions and custodial sentences for far-right wing extremists that would have caused havoc in our communities and what you've got to remember is it's not that the Muslim community condones terrorism.
"Of course I've said al-Qaeda inspired terrorism is the number one challenge for us in this country. But it isn't supported by Muslims in this country.
"If you speak to any Muslim on the street anywhere in this country, they will say that they are as opposed as you and I are to extremism, to terrorism, but the frustration is that they're constantly linked with terrorism as a community as a whole and that's when it gets dangerous."
The report also called for reform of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) to allow an expert on 'home-grown' terrorism to sit on the Committee.
It suggested that the Department for Communities and Local Government should have a permanent seat on the JIC alongside the seven other government departments on the committee and that experienced local authority chief executives should be consulted when assessing potential security risks.
Ms Turley said: "Prevent is too prescriptive from the centre, undermines broader community cohesion objectives and lacks sufficient integration with police and security services at local and national level.
"Concern has also been acknowledged over the agenda's impact on relations with Muslim communities and whether it unfairly stigmatises an entire community."
In July this year, Scotland Yard warned that far-right extremists were planning a "spectacular" terrorist attack in Britain to try to stoke racial tensions and that more resources need to be targeted to tackle this form of extremism.