“We need to unite to make a clear and loud definition between Islam – a religion of peace and Islamist extremism” says Prime Minister
The now much-criticised letter that communities secretary Eric Pickles sent to mosques, telling Muslims they to face the “challenges of integration and radicalisation”, has been supported by the Prime Minister.
In a one-to-one interview at the Asian Express offices in Leeds, David Cameron said Eric Pickles’ letter, which told more than 1,000 Muslim leaders they “had more work to do” to root our extremists, was “reasonable, sensible and moderate”.
Eric Pickles letter which was sent out in the wake of the terror attacks in France was slammed by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and many other mosque leaders, who said the letter appeared to re-enforce claims by the far right about Islam not being a part of British society.
Mr. Cameron said that anyone reading the letter could see that it clearly praises the Muslim community saying that they make a great contribution to UK, and that what is happening in terms of extremist terror has nothing to do with the true religion of Islam.
The letter had also praised the way Muslims in Britain had responded to the Paris terror attacks and Mr. Cameron said that he believes that in no way did it intend to undermine Muslims in Great Britain and that the letter was being taken out of context.
When question on wether he understands how the Muslim’s in Britain may be feeling exposed and vulnerable to stigmatisation by the letter, Mr. Cameron says: “We cannot turn away from Islamist extremism, all of us have to look at this and ask how do we combat this poisonous narrative. Obviously we needed the Muslim community in Great Britain to join us on this.”
The Prime Minister said that the Iraq war or 911 attack was just a wake up call to the realisation of radicalisation of vulnerable young Muslim men and that “we cannot turn away from this – all of us have to look at this and is ask how do we combat this distorted view of Islam – peaceful religion,” he says.
He criticised the Governemnt’s old Prevent programme stating that it was a “bit muddled” and that it didn’t do very well on either objectives of trying to support mosques and prevent terrorism. It confused the delivery of Government policy to promote integration to prevent terrorism.
“Obviously we need the Muslim community in Great Britain to work with us.
“We need to unite to make a clear and loud definition between Islam – religion of peace and Islamist extremism, and we need the help of the Muslim leaders on facilitating this,” says the Prime Minister.
He added that he feels rooting out terrorism is a generational challenge and feels that it will take some time to overcome.
“We must unite as a nation to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensure that they are given appropriate advice and support. “At the same time, we have to stand up and fight against Islamophobia.
“It’s a real problem in our country and it makes people feel vulnerable and fearful and it is extremely unpleasant and unnecessary,” he says.
Faith leaders, he says, are in a unique position in British society as they have a precious opportunity and important responsibility in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.