Leading article: There is no quick fix for extremism

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The Independent Online

Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, this week launched a review of whether "core British values" should become a compulsory part of the curriculum for all 11- to 16-year-olds in England. In response to last year's London bombings, Mr Rammell also announced a review of the teaching of Islam in universities to combat extremism on campus.

A leading Muslim scholar will examine current Islamic teaching at British universities to ensure that religion-oriented courses are not restricted to narrow interpretations of beliefs and that they reflect what it means to be a Muslim in a multi-faith society. The review follows concerns that British universities could be fertile recruiting ground for extremist religious groups, and fears about conflicts between religious groups on campus.

Mr Rammell also hopes to educate younger students to be more tolerant with an overhaul of the current citizenship classes to foster community cohesion. The six-month-long review will ask how all children can develop a strong sense of British identity by learning about Britain's culture and traditions. This would include the contributions from different communities.

Mr Rammell said that there needed to be a debate about the values shared by all communities. At London's South Bank University on Monday, he also announced the Islam review, which followed nine months of his meeting with Muslim students to discuss their grievances.

However, there is no quick fix to extremism and social alienation. Mr Rammell hopes education can combat discrimination against Muslims as well as tackling the minority of extremists on the fringes. Critics say the scheme is a knee-jerk reaction and argue that education cannot prevent extremism. Teachers' leaders worry that teaching youngsters that values such as freedom, democracy and liberty are inherently British worsens divisions. All are valid criticisms.

It is vital this initiative does not fall victim to jingoism or fuel aggressive nationalism. The bombings have sparked a period of reflection about how society can tackle ideologies that lead to terrorism. This is a step in the right direction towards finding some of the answers.

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