CAIRO - Worried about being a scapegoat in the wake of a machete killing in London, British Muslims are urging their government for consultations over a proposed taskforce to combat extremism in Britain.
After Woolwich, we understand the Prime Minister needs an effective strategy in the face of such a horrific instance of extremism, the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net on Monday, May 27.
In doing so, we hope wisdom prevails as we reflect on the response of these past few days and the missed opportunities of previous years.
The British government unveiled plans Sunday to set up a taskforce to target imams seen preaching extremism and violence.
Home Secretary Theresa May also suggested new powers to fight extremism, including controls on the internet and the banning of groups preaching extremism.
The measures also include forming mosque committees to be held to account for the choice of imams they make.
The new strategy was proposed in the wake of last week's machete killing of an army soldier in London by two converts of Nigerian origin.
The MCB warned that knee-jerking policies could backfire and exacerbate the problem of extremism in Britain.
We must be vigilant and ensure we do not inadvertently give into the demands of all extremists: making our society less free, divided and suspicious of each other, the umbrella group said.
Lessons from the past indicate that policies and measures taken in haste can exacerbate extremism.
London introduced a controversial strategy in the wake of the 2005 attacks to prevent Muslims from being lured into extremist ideologies.
However, the Prevent strategy was widely criticized as focusing predominantly on British Muslims.
Britain's 2.7 million Muslims have taken full brunt of anti-terror laws since the 7/7 attacks.
They have repeatedly complained of maltreatment by police for no apparent reason other than being Muslim.
A Financial Times opinion poll has showed recently that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.
Community leaders underlined that a greater engagement between the government and Muslims would help effectively combat extremism.
"We need much, much more communication right now," Sughra Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Society of Britain, told The Guardian.
"It's got to be open, it's got to be honest, it's got to be transparent - and it's got to go both ways, not just the government being open but Muslim communities also. It's got to be a collegiate effort and there's got to be genuine collaboration.
"Extremism is something that affects us all within society, whether it's the rightwing fascists or what we saw on Wednesday."
Mustafa Field, the director of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, shares a similar view.
"There's very little evidence to indicate that mosques have been involved in radicalizing individuals, he told The Guardian.
"But the mosques are left to deradicalize them."
He opined that the government should further work to prevent the spread of extremist ideologies on the internet and in universities.
"We know that there's a lot of self-radicalization taking place and there are many organized groups that are producing videos on the internet but there are also groups like al-Muhajiroun or Islam4UK who are constantly radicalizing young people," he said.
"We are also having hate preachers walking into university campuses and there's not enough work being done around that.
We need to have more - and stronger - programs to counter the ideologies and the messages that are being spread by extremists."
The MCB has also urged the government to take measures to address grievances by Muslims.
We need leadership to foster greater civic and political engagement, ensuring young people are equal stakeholders in British public life. The challenge of civic apathy affects us all.
The umbrella group also reminded the government of its duty to fight the rightwing extremists.
"In the past 48 hours we have witnessed an upsurge in anti-Muslim hatred with targeted attacks on mosques and the Muslim individuals, not to mention the torrent of hateful abuse on social media," it said."Attitudes against Muslims have hardened. Any taskforce must examine extremism from all quarters."