Mosques told to do more to take on extremists

BRITISH mosques have been urged to do more to tackle Islamic extremism by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

In a letter co-signed with Junior Minister and Muslim peer Lord Tariq Ahmad, Mr Pickles, a former Bradford Council leader, tells British mosques that radicalism “cannot be solved from Whitehall alone”.

It continues: “You, as faith leaders, are in a unique position in our society. You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility – in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.

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“We believe together we have an opportunity to demonstrate the true nature of British Islam today.

“There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country.

“We know that acts of extremism are not representative of Islam; but we need to show what is.”

The letter points leaders of mosques to where they can get help to tackle extremism and support to confront far-Right groups such as the English Defence League and Britain First.

His intervention came as debate continued over the way Britain should respond into events in Paris and last week’s counter-terror raids in Belgium.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg yesterday reiterated the Liberal Democrats’ opposition to giving the police and security services new powers to monitor electronic communications.

He described the Communcations Data Bill, branded a ‘snoopers’ charter’ by opponents, as “unproven, clunky, resource intensive”.

Lib Dem opposition to the Bill, which would require phone and internet companies to keep data records for a year, has prevented the Coalition pushing it through the Commons.

The Sheffield Hallam MP said: “Lots of experts looked at it and said this is a waste of resources, a waste of time. Why are we keeping records of every man, woman and child across the country when for starters, we tend to know where to look for the people who want to do us harm?”

The Deputy Prime Minister said the aim was to “find the needle without inferring guilt on the haystack”.

“New powers will need to be put on the statute book in the next parliament, and I will advocate them as much as any chisel-faced securocrat,” he went on.

“I want to keep us safe. It’s ludicrous this idea that people who care about our freedom don’t care about our safety.

“What I will not do... is saying that every single man, woman and child should have data about what they get up to online kept for a year.”

David Cameron has promised to push the Communications Data Bill through Parliament if the Conservatives secure a majority at the General Election in May.

But a former director of MI5 yesterday supported calls for additional powers.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Lord Evans of Weardale said: “The ability of the police and security agencies to do this important work of protecting our society and its vulnerable people is under threat from changing technology.

“We expect them today not just to follow up a crime or terrorist attack and identify the perpetrators but rather to do all they can to stop the attack or crime from taking place at all. They can only do this if they have the tools to do so and the tools at their disposal are no longer fit for purpose.”

Lord Evans warned that the security agencies’ work had been made more difficult since Edward Snowden’s revelations about the mass surveillance activities of the US National Security Agency.

Comment: Page 10; French suspects released: Page 14.