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We must pay heed to angry young men, says senior Tory

Yorkshire will only become less segregated if politicians listen to the "angry young men" on the extremes of society rather than ignoring them, a leading Tory peer warned yesterday.

Baroness Warsi said she made no apology for reaching out to people who voted for the BNP, or disaffected Muslims who ran the risk of being seduced by the calls of terror group al-Qaida as she set out an agenda for community cohesion based on pragmatism rather than political correctness.

The Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion has spent her life in Dewsbury, a town as segregated as any in the country, where Asian communities dominate some areas and are hardly to be found in others, where schools are segregated and tension is palpable on the streets.

Baroness Warsi said she shared the frustrations the town's Asian population, stigmatised by its links with terrorism – including 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Siddique Khan and three teenagers currently going through the courts – but she is not afraid to court controversy over her stance on the BNP.

"I'm not prepared to write off people who vote for the BNP," she said. "The BNP stand for division and hate, they have their own racist agenda, but 6,000 people in Dewsbury voted for them at the last election and I'm not prepared to write them off as racists.

"They did it as a protest vote and if they're protesting about issues it's up to the mainstream parties to take that on board and hear those people out. They vote BNP through a sense of frustration – it's important to get to the root causes of it all."

At the same time, she does not subscribe to what many believe is the answer – an end to multiculturalism and with it the

ghettoisation of communities.

She said: "Just because people choose to live in a certain part of the town, that's a matter for them. What are we going to do, bus people around? Have quotas on the streets?

"What we should be dealing with is issues of deprivation in estates rather than worrying that they are not mixed. Where you live should be up to you. I don't get hung up on pure housing – it's about how much you feel part of the country you're in."

Dewsbury was under the microscope again in late 2006 after 24-year-old primary school teacher Aishah Azmi was suspended for refusing to remove her niqab full-face veil, again adding to the siege mentality.

Baroness Warsi said: "I found the whole veil debate uncomfortable because I don't think a Briton should tell people what or what not to wear. I also think we're getting hung up on the face veils of a few thousand women and what we should be looking at are the broader issues – access to education, access to jobs, economic inaction among certain communities."

She said the ensuing storm set back community cohesion.

"Every Muslim in Savile Town is not the same. The economic gap between them is huge, there are gender issues, there are people in there with PhDs and those without a single GCSE.

"Some of them are from Indian backgrounds, some Pakistani, some Bengali, some of them Arab origin; they don't speak the same ethic languages. For someone to block them all into one group is actually a very ignorant and patronising approach to ethnic minorities. It's like saying all white people are the same."

Baroness Warsi, 36, says she has been saying this for a long time, but it is only now that people are listening.

She is now somewhat of a national hero after riding to the rescue of schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons, imprisoned in Sudan, but her political ascent has not been seamless.

Eyebrows were raised when Tory leader David Cameron made her party vice chairman with responsibility for cities, and then this summer elevated her to the Lords and placed her in his Shadow Cabinet.

But after Sudan, and a well-received speech shortly afterwards when she said that British Muslims needed to change their victim culture, Baroness Warsi's stock is at an all-time high.

"I'm very pragmatic in terms of my political career," she said. "I don't have a long-term plan, I'm privileged and delighted to be where I am.

"I think it's fantastic to be leading this agenda which I'm so passionate about and hey, if it's not here in six months time, at least I did what I did when I had the opportunity."

The issue in figures

Just over 30 per cent of schools in Bradford have a minority of children speaking English as their first language.

National Insurance numbers were given to 41,640 foreign workers coming to Yorkshire between April 2006 and March 2007.

Yorkshire police forces spend more than 2m a year on interpreters.

A YouGov poll last year revealed 72 per cent of people in the region believe levels of immigration are making community relations more difficult.

Poles make up 38 per cent of all foreign workers coming to Yorkshire. About eight per cent are from Pakistan, five per cent are from Slovakia and another five per cent

are from India.

Almost 800 school-age children have arrived in Bradford from eastern Europe in the space of 18 months.

Funding bonus to help fight extremists

Tom Smithard

The Government will pump funding into five Yorkshire councils this year in the fight to prevent violent extremism.

A series of community projects will receive money as the Government changes tack, looking to support "on-the-ground" groups that resonate most with young people, rather than well-established community elders now considered out of touch.

Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield councils are among 70 chosen for the multi-million-pound injection.

Examples of projects include the Kirklees Webspace and Radio Activity project, which will set up an internet site for young people as an alternative to extremist websites, and train 40 young people to make podcasts.

In Calderdale, schools and faith groups will create a new citizenship teaching programme that will address specific challenges faced by Muslim youths and actively condemn violent extremism.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said: "We have to overcome this challenge by giving communities the strength and skills to face down a false and perverted ideology. This struggle will be with us for years, and we must do more to support the next generation in winning it."

As the Yorkshire Post reported this weekend, the Government is making significant investment in English language tuition, and will now focus funding on long-term immigrants, mostly from Asia and the Middle East.

The Government is also researching how it can help build a form of new British Islamic identity, based on liberalism and integration, to combat the extremist ideology which is gaining traction with rootless Muslim teenagers.

In a discussion document released last year, it said: "The need to develop a British Islam exists because the second generation have grown up in the UK long enough that their parents' version of Islam seems distant and irrelevant.

"But there has not been sufficient time for a home-grown leadership to emerge to take control of the mosques, while much of the existing leadership is not able to communicate with the young or to understand their concerns."

Assertiveness courses to be funded for Muslim women

Government-funded assertiveness training courses for Muslim women are to be launched to try to counter Islamist radicalism.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears is to publish a document arguing that women can become a voice for moderation in Muslim communities and steer young people away from the clutches of extremist recruiters.

She will tell local authorities to use part of a 70m Government fund, set up to counter extremism, to pay for courses in confidence building, communication and mediation skills for Muslim women.

Women are expected to be offered work placements with business leaders and successful athletes, while funding will be made available to set up Muslim women's groups to provide a safe space for discussion.

Motivational firms may run role-play courses to teach Muslim mothers how to speak out if they fear their children are being seduced by extremists.

A Whitehall source said: "Muslim women can have a unique moral authority at the heart of families as sisters, mothers and friends and must be supported to play a greater role in tackling extremist ideology."

But assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain Inayat Bunglawala said: "The Government first wanted our imams to act as spies on young British Muslims and now they seem to want Muslim women to do the same."

Bishop's claims of no-go zones spark anger

A SENIOR Church of England bishop who accused Islamic extremists of creating "no-go areas" in Britain should resign, Muslim groups said last night.

Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali said communities dominated by radical Islam give a hostile reception to Christians and those from other faiths.

Muslim groups angrily denied the claims, asking the bishop to give examples to prove his point.

A spokesman for one deman-ded his resignation and another said the Church should take "serious action" against him.

In the Sunday Telegraph Dr Nazir-Ali condemned the use of loudspeakers to spread the call to prayer and compared intimidation by radical Muslims to far-Right extremism.

He writes: "There has been a worldwide resurgence of the ideology of Islamic extremism.

"One of the results of this has been to further alienate the young from the nation in which they were growing up and also to turn already separate communities into 'no-go' areas where adherence to this ideology has become a mark of acceptability.

"Those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live or work there because of hostility to them. In many ways this is but the other side of the coin to far-Right intimidation.

"Attempts have been made to impose an 'Islamic' character on certain areas, for example by in-sisting on artificial amplification for the Adhan, the call to prayer."

Mohammed Shafiq, a spokes-man for the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth group, accused him of trying to "whip up hatred" against Muslims and called on him to resign.

He said the bishop could not give any examples of extremists creating no-go areas for Christians, adding: "He talks about compassion and justice yet he wishes to deny Muslims this – Mr Nazir-Ali's comments remind people of the road to Nazism."

Ajmal Masroor, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Great Britain, said the Church should take "serious action" against him.

"It's nonsense – it's a distortion of reality," he said. "I believe our communities are far more integ-rated than they were 10 years ago."

Muslim Council of Britain ass-istant secretary-general Inayat Bunglawala accused the bishop of frantic scaremongering about Islam as "a rather unethical way of trying to reverse" the perceived decline in Christianity's influence on this country.

"He complains of the Islamic call to prayer but presumably is content for all of us to listen to the ringing of church bells.

A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: "The overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful, make a huge contribution to British life and find the views of a small minority of violent extremists completely abhorrent.

"Britain also has a proud tradition of different communities living together side by side. But we are not complacent – the Government has completely re-balanced its community cohesion strategy putting far greater emphasis on promoting integration and shared British values, as the bishop acknowledges."

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said Dr Nazir-Ali had "put it too strongly".

He told Sky News's Sunday Live programme: "I don't think that view is factually correct. I'm not sure where these no-go areas are; I don't recognise that description.

"I think the fact a bishop is speaking about this kind of thing does underline one point, which is that we need to do much more in Britain to integrate people to make sure that our community and our society works well together."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who declared recently that he does not believe in God, rebutted the bishop's claims.

He told the programme: "I strongly disagree with him. I don't think he has produced any evidence that there really are no-go areas – that is an extraordinarily inflammatory way of putting it."

A Lambeth Palace spokesman said the Archbishop of Canterbury would not comment.

"These are the bishop's personal views," he said.

 
 
 

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