This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3539
July 18, 2008
MIM: According to the BBC Islamist Tariq Ramadan who was denied entry to the United States due to terrorism ties is among the 20 'academics and theologians' who are going to be on the board of this endeavor.
|Published||18 July 2008|
Communities Secretary Hazel Blears today announced a package of measures responding to calls from Muslim communities to support the promotion of citizenship and shared values and to stop Islamic theology being abused by those who seek to divide communities.
She said that a clear understanding of faith, open debate and discussion are key to building communities which are resilient to violent extremism.
The Government has always been clear that communities must be at the centre of the response to violent extremism. Over the last year we have been working with communities and local authorities in developing their capacity to confront violent extremism effectively, marginalise and undermine those actively peddling these views and support vulnerable young people.
Today's announcement builds on this significant progress. A new report Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities builds on the cross-government strategy published in June and outlines an ambitious new phase in our work with communities. This includes supporting increased take-up of citizenship teaching in mosque schools, strengthening theological understanding and a renewed focus on the importance of local council and community leadership. The report outlines plans to:
Establish a new independent board of academic and theological experts
Muslim stakeholders have consistently expressed concerns about Islamic beliefs being misused by those seeking to promote extremism or reinforce certain cultural practices. They are equally clear that violence has no place in Islam and that Islamic theology can play a vital part in countering such teachings.
The Government has responded by working with Muslim communities to facilitate the establishment of an independent theological board who will be able to advise on these issues and share their findings with the wider Muslim community. Cambridge University will be commissioned to establish a board of around 20 leading Muslim scholars and community representatives.
The board will examine issues relating to Islam in a modern context and how that fits with being a citizen in the UK. The membership of the board will reflect the diversity if Islam and Muslim communities in the UK. Seminars will be held over the coming months to discuss a broad range of issues including citizenship, identity and gender.
The content of these discussions, research findings and reports will be disseminated to a wider audience, helping to strengthen young people's understanding of their faith.
Citizenship teaching in mosque schools
A significant number of young Muslim people attend mosque schools regularly to receive traditional Qur'anic teaching. Building on pioneering work within Muslim communities, the Government has supported an independent educational organisation - the Schools Development and Support Agency - to work with scholars, educational experts and mosque school teachers to develop new citizenship materials and training packages for mosque schools.
These resources will be taught alongside or as part of traditional lessons with the focus on demonstrating to young British Muslims that their faith is compatible with shared values and with being a British citizen; undermining the violent extremists' argument that there is a fundamental conflict between the West and Islam, and being British and Muslim.
The new materials will be piloted in mosque schools in East London, West London, Leicester, Birmingham, Oldham/Rochdale, Bradford/Kirklees. Mosque teachers will be trained in using the new materials over the summer ready for use in October.
A new group of community leaders to advise on local responses to tackling extremism
Local Authorities have a central role in supporting communities and now see preventing extremism as a key part of their business. Many areas have fully grasped this agenda and are working closely with partners and their communities to develop innovative responses to the challenges it poses. For other authorities it remains a newer priority, we need to see more action from them and we will provide the support, training and guidance they require to do that.
We want to hear first hand what is happening on the PREVENT agenda in local areas, to be kept informed about the work underway, understand where we Government can provide more support and ensure that local authorities are clear about our priorities and expectations.
We will establish a Local Delivery Advisory Group comprising council leaders, chief executives, education advisers, community cohesion advisors and housing association representatives to ensure we continue to work closely on responding to the challenge.
Hazel Blears said:
"We have made significant progress working with communities to build an alliance against violent extremists.
"We have a responsibility to ensure that our young people are equipped with the skills they need to stand up to violent extremists and help them understand how their faith is compatible with wider shared values.
"It is not for Government to dictate on matters of faith or religious teaching. But Muslim communities themselves have told us that stronger leadership is needed on what are often controversial issues.
"There are still some local authorities who know there is a problem in their local area but fight shy of it. This kind of challenge won't go away if we stick our head in the sand. It is important for civic representatives to take responsibility, starting with Chief Executive Officers and Leaders."
Today's report underlines the achievements that have been made but also outlines the further steps we must now take.
Over the last 15 months the Government have been taking forward a range of work to prevent violent extremism including:
Last summer we announced that £70m would be available for community-led work to tackle violent extremism. To support this work we have issued strengthened guidance to councils making clear they should only award funding to those groups who are actively taking a stand against violent extremism and promoting shared values such as tolerance and respect for the rule of law.
Since this announcement the total funding available has increased to over £80m is available over the next three years. The additional investment will be retained centrally and support programmes centred on:
Strengthening community leadership - particularly focusing on supporting those, including young people, who have links with some of the hardest to reach individuals. A key focus will be Empowering Muslim women and young people to play a more active leadership role and to encourage the emergence of new leaders from within communities including through a wide range of mentoring opportunities.
Supporting local responses - we will step up our work to support and build the capacity of local partnerships including local authorities, police, community groups ensuring that they are equipped to develop responses to specific challenges in their own areas.
Improve faith understanding and put long term measures in place to support faith leaders and institutions including the establishment of a theology board and support an Independent Review of the training of Muslim faith leaders.
This summer Hazel Blears will visit Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. The trip is intended to help deepen the Government's understanding of the strong links - particularly in faith issues - between those countries and their diaspora communities here in the UK.
The Communities Secretary will meet with Government Ministers in each country and discuss a wide range of issues including sharing experience of developing community led responses to tackling extremism alongside security responses. She will meet with those involved in religious training, community empowerment and cohesion issues, and women's and youth groups.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families is jointly supporting the programme to develop citizenship teaching in mosque schools as well as wider work to promote the role of education in building more cohesive and resilient communities.
Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls said:
"Extremists of every persuasion tend to paint the world as black and white, accentuating division and difference, and exploiting fears based on ignorance or prejudice. Education can be a powerful tool in tackling this. Giving young people the opportunity to learn about different cultures and faiths, and - crucially - to gain an understanding of the values we share, will also help to build mutual respect and tolerance from an early age and create an environment where extremism cannot flourish."
1. The document Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities can be viewed at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/preventingviolentextremismnext.
2. The Citizenship materials have been developed by Islam and Citizenship Education (ICE). Further details can be found at www.theiceproject.co.uk (external link).
Visit our newsroom contacts page for media enquiry contact details
MIM: The homepage of the ICE project
O mankind! Indeed, we created you from a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Truly, the best of you in the sight of God are the ones who are the most righteous. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things. (Qur'an 49:13)
O' believers, Be steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity; and never let hatred of any-one lead you into the sin of deviating from justice. Be just: this is closest to being pious, and remain conscious of God: truly, God is aware of all that you do. (Qur'an 5:8) http://www.theiceproject.co.uk/
The "Preventing Violent Extremism" initiative is also working with the UK Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as an Islamist group called the Radical Middle Way.
RMW is funded primarily by a grant from the UK Government‘s Global Opportunities Fund and DCLG. Additional support has come from a wide range of sponsors that in the past has included organisations like Islamic Relief."
"And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way, so that you might bear witness to the truth before all humankind." Qur'an, Surah al-Baqarah, verse 143
The Radical Middle Way (RMW) is a revolutionary grassroots initiative aimed at articulating a relevant mainstream understanding of Islam that is dynamic, proactive and relevant to young British Muslims.
Through public lectures, seminars, workshops and cultural programs, we engage with real issues through legitimate orthodox scholarship. The RMW is about erasing the schism between public and private discourse over issues affecting Islam and Muslims in the modern world – we believe in open debate and meaningful discussion.
The Radical Middle Way is based on clear principles:
These themes are grounded in Islamic scholarship, tradition and civilisation. The project is committed to creating spaces where young Muslims can engage with these ideas in a meaningful, open and creative way.
Bringing the Best – Together
An-Nisa Society (Wembley)
British Muslim Forum
Christian Muslim Forum
Federation of Student Islamic Societies
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
Islamic Good Direct
London Muslim Centre
Madni Mosque, Bradford
Mile End Community Project
Young Muslims UK
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MIM: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website description of the Radical Middle Way.
Muslim grassroots in the UK
The Radical Middle Way (RMW) is a Muslim grassroots movement dedicated to making mainstream Islam relevant to young British Muslims.
Its main aim is articulating an understanding of Islam that is dynamic, proactive and relevant.
Managed by young Muslims
Started in 2005, it is funded mainly by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the UK's Department for Communities and Local Government. The project is managed by young British Muslims themselves, in partnership with various Islamic organisations.
The funding is vital to their efforts but RMW is keen to point out that "We have a rigorously negotiated 'terms of reference' with our funders that guarantees the independence of participating scholars".
Its message to supporters also points out that this independence ensures "that all of our activities are undertaken in the best interests of Muslim communities."
Bringing together Muslim scholars
It operates in the UK and for the past three years RMW has been bringing together some of the leading authoritative and independent Muslim scholars from across the world to talk to young British Muslims.
One of the most important areas they discuss is what it means to be young, British and Muslim. It tries to combat ignorance by arguing for the ‘middle way' amongst the mainstream Muslim community.
RMW says that it is critical is to ensure that effective debate is lead by qualified scholars. It is also about challenging extremist views and providing alternatives, and changing the minds of young Muslims seduced by the rhetoric of extremism and radicalisation.
Not only do they get their messages out via their website but they have embraced the latest technology like MP3s, podcasts, videos, Youtube etc.
One of their distinguished scholars, Shayk Abdallah Bin Bayyan has used the RMW website to answer difficult questions from young visitors ranging from education, sharia law, forgiveness and music and mainstream Muslim thought.
RMW has held nearly 15 major tours so far, inviting scholars to address their young Muslim audiences – 60,000 in all and female as well as male.
The scholars come from all over the world, from the US to Egypt and the Yemen, from Canada to Bosnia and Germany.
This year they are running a series of monthly roadshows with leading scholars, thinkers and Muslim personalities who would engage in debates, seminars, discussions and face-to-face dialogue with our target audience.
They plan walkabouts, 'kebab shop' discussions and roundtables with voluntary sector organisations - youth and women's groups being a priority.
Since its launch in 2005, RMW has worked with dozens of organisations and groups across the UK. Their key partners and supporters include the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the Young Muslims Organisation, Q-News, Britain's leading Muslim magazine and Mahabba Unlimited which organises cultural, intellectual, spiritual and social events and programmes.
See our preventing and resolving conflict pages for more about FCO policy. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/fco-in-action/casestudies/young-muslims-uk
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3539