David Cameron must win Muslim 'hearts and minds', Andy Burnham to say


David Cameron's efforts to counter extremism risk making the problem worse and the Prime Minister needs to focus on winning "hearts and minds" in Muslim communities, shadow home secretary Andy Burnham will claim.

The Government unveiled new proposals to combat extremism in the Queen's Speech, but Mr Burnham will call for the introduction of the legislation to be paused while the existing strategy is reviewed by a cross-party panel.

The shadow home secretary will tell MPs a "more sophisticated" approach is necessary and the current proposals could "make matters worse".

The Counter-Extremism and Safeguarding Bill will include powers to intervene in unregulated schools which "teach hate" and "drive communities apart".

Vetting rules are expected to be adapted to enable employers to check whether an individual is an extremist and bar them from working with youngsters.

Ministers will consult on rolling out a civil order regime to "restrict extremist activity", as well as new powers to enable the Government to step in when councils fail to tackle extremism.

The legislation aims to help deliver on the Tories' manifesto pledge to tackle all forms of extremism, so "our values and our way of life are properly promoted and defended".

But Mr Burnham will use a Commons debate on the measures in the Queen's Speech to call for the new laws to be shelved until a review of the wider Prevent anti-extremism programme has been carried out.

He will say Home Secretary Theresa May cannot "plough on regardless" after campaigners, including former Greater Manchester Police chief constable Sir Peter Fahy, warned the proposals could "alienate communities".

Mr Burnham will tell MPs: "I believe the Government is getting its approach to tackling extremism drastically wrong. It is perceived as highly discriminatory and has created a deep sense of despondency in the Muslim community.

"Far from tackling extremism, it risks creating the conditions for it to flourish."

In a direct attack on the Prime Minister, Mr Burnham will say the Government needs to change the way it talks about British Muslims.

"David Cameron's comments on these matters seem more designed to win votes in Middle England than hearts and minds in the Muslim community," he will say. "But he urgently needs to do that if the Government's counter-radicalisation policies are to have any realistic chance of success.

"Britain must remain a place where everybody is free to express and develop their beliefs without the fear that they are being spied upon. That freedom is part of what makes this country a wonderful place to live and worship.

"We are steadfast in our opposition to violent extremism and those who incite violence based on religion, race or sexuality. It is in all our interests to stop the spread of poisonous ideas.

"The country needs a more sophisticated approach that starts with a relationship of trust with the Muslim community and empowers them to deal with the tiny number of people at risk of radicalisation."

A Home Office spokesman said: "Prevent is about safeguarding those who may be vulnerable to being targeted by extremists and terrorist recruiters. It is both challenging and vitally important work.

"The threat we face, particularly from Daesh, is very real and we have all seen too starkly and tragically the devastating impact radicalisation can have on individuals, families and communities.

"But terrorism is not the only harm caused by extremism and we are clear that we need tackle extremism in all its forms - violent and non-violent, Islamist and far-right.

"Extremists cause enormous harm, their ideologies promote hatred, intolerance and division. The Counter-Extremism Strategy is about confronting extremist ideology head-on, supporting mainstream voices, and building stronger and more cohesive communities.

"It is not targeted at Muslims who are themselves often the victims of extremists. It is about working in partnership with all groups and individuals who want to defeat extremism and together make Britain stronger."