Founder quits Muslim women's group in protest

A Government body set up to empower Muslim women has been dismissed by one of its founders as a "tick box exercise" after she quit in protest at the slow progress it was making.

Shaista Gohir, a respected Muslim activist from Birmingham, was one of 19 prominent women who sat on the National Muslim Women's Advisory Group (NMWAG). But she left the group this week, accusing the body of being a "political fad" that had failed to help Muslim women in the way ministers promised.

During its launch in January 2008, NMWAG was trumpeted by Gordon Brown as key component of the Government's anti-extremism strategy, known as Prevent, and that it would help build a "stronger, better society".

But in a resignation letter sent yesterday, Ms Gohir detailed why she felt compelled to quit, accusing the body of failing to empower Muslim women and becoming sidetracked by "managing projects".

She also accused the group of deliberately increasing its output in the run-up the elections due to fears that "a new government may disband NMWAG due to its lack of impact".

"This has resulted in a sudden interest to ensure NMWAG is more visible and active," she wrote in the resignation letter. "I feel extremely uncomfortable about the timing of this renewed interest to empower Muslim women. I believe that this gives the perception that the group has suddenly become active to save itself rather than for the genuine empowerment of Muslim women which is a task that has to take place irrespective of elections or any change in government."

Ms Gohir's resignation comes just one week after the Government's anti-extremism strategy was heavily criticised in a report by MPs who claimed that Prevent was alienating Britain's Muslims, rather than encouraging them to root out extremism. The communities and local government committee said the Prevent programme was backfiring and it was difficult to know what good it was doing.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) said they were aware of Ms Gohir's letter but were unable to comment in the run-up to the election.

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