Blair lays down law to Muslims on extremists in their midst

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Indy Politics

The Government has come under attack over its slow progress in implementing measures to tackle extremism in the Muslim community promised after the London bombings a year ago.

But in the face of criticism from prominent Muslims when he was questioned by the Commons Liaison Committee of senior MPs yesterday, Tony Blair denied that ministers were stalling and appealed to the moderate majority of Muslims to take on extremists.

He said: "The Government has its role to play in this but, honestly, the Government itself is not going to defeat this. If we want to defeat the extremism, we have got to defeat its ideas and we have got to address the completely false sense of grievance against the West."

He added: "I am not the person to go into the Muslim community and explain that this extreme view is not the true face of Islam. I profoundly disagree that the problem here is that the Government hasn't acted."

He suggested some delays were caused by disagreements among Muslims. "We are not having a debate of a fundamental enough nature within the community, which is where the moderate majority stand up against the ideas of those people. You cannot defeat this extremism through what a Government does. You can only defeat it within a community," he said.

His comments angered some Muslim leaders, fuelling their discontent that many of the recommendations from a task force set up after the bombings had not yet been acted upon. Downing Street insisted that, of 64 recommendations, 27 were already being implemented, had been completed and 17 were in progress or already happening.

But Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, said that only three of its 64 recommendations had been implemented. He criticised the Government for failing to publish a detailed plan and said that members had been left frustrated by the apparent lack of progress. "There is an air of despondency," he said.

David Blunkett, the former Home Secretary, admitted that the response to the group's report had suffered because of turbulence in the Home Office. He told the BBC: "There is a real problem in Government, in terms of being able to take [forward] something that is a very good idea."

Baroness Uddin, a Labour peer, said that the group's report was "gathering dust". She said: "There has been some progress, but very, very minimal."

Lord Ahmed, another Labour peer, said he had not received sufficient support from ministers since the report was published in November. He said: "Unless we have help from the Government and various departments the community cannot do it."

Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said that the working groups under the taskforce were unanimous in wanting a public inquiry into the July 7 attacks. He said: "A lot of recommendations were put forward and it's important they are carried through."

Responsibility for race and community relations was transferred from the Home Office to Ruth Kelly's Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in May. They said a progress report on implementing the recommendations would be published "shortly".

They pointed to the national roadshow of moderate Muslim Scholars which has been seen by 30,000 young people, and said forums aimed at tackling Islamophobia and extremism had been established in Leicester, Redbridge and Dudley, with more planned around the country.

Ministers pointed to last month's launch of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, which has published a "good practice" guide for mosques.

The Home Office said: "Much has been accomplished since the report was sent to ministers."

What Muslims proposed... and what the Government did

* Recommendation: Hold a public inquiry into the "what, how and why of 7/7 and 21/7, "including an inquiry into the root causes".

Response: Ministers have repeatedly ruled out a public inquiry into the attacks. An internal Home Office narrative of events leading up to the attacks was published earlier this year.

* Recommendation: Establish a rebuttal unit at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to "encourage a more balanced representation of Islam and Muslims in the British media, popular culture and creative industries".

Response: No unit has so far been established.

* Recommendation: Establish a steering group at the Department for Education and Skills chaired by a minister and including participation from the Muslim community and other experts to "draw up a strategy on combating Islamophobia in education".

Response: The Education Department said it had work in hand on combating Islamophobia and said concerns about the national curriculum would be addressed in a review to be published in December.

* Recommendation: Establish a British Muslim "citizenship toolkit" to help student societies, mosques, imams and parents combat "violent fanatic tendencies".

Response: The Labour MP Sadiq Khan said yesterday there had been no progress.

* Recommendation: Set up an "Islam Online" website as a one-stop shop for young British Muslims.

Response: The Muslim Council of Britain's Inayat Bunglawala, convenor of a working group to combat extremism and radicalisation, said he was still waiting for a response to a formal proposal two months after it was submitted to the Home Office.