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Humza Yousaf: If extremism is to be conquered, the Muslim community must be given tools for the job

Theresa May is the sixth Home Secretary to attempt to tackle Islamic extremism in the UK. Her five predecessors spectacularly failed and the rhetoric deployed by Ms May doesn't fill me with great hope.

Don't get me wrong, I know the challenge ahead is not an easy one. But it is becoming increasingly clear that any attempt by the UK government to impose a top-down ideology has and always will be counter-productive.

If we want to tackle Islamic extremism, then the moderate Muslim majority will have to be given the tools to do so.

The previous government took a simplistic view of this problem. By simply throwing money at organisations that said what the government wanted to hear – many of which lack any credibility or history of engagement within the Muslim community – there is a real threat of isolating already moderate Muslim voices that are out there.

The strategy of empowerment must be underpinned by the belief that good speech will always defeat bad speech, something I think we have demonstrated many a time in Scotland.

In 2010, the Scottish Defence League announced they would be marching through Glasgow. Instead of badgering the government to ban such a group, the voices of reason took to the streets under the banner of "Scotland United". Whereas the extremists numbered around 70, the Scotland United group was more than 3,000. While not being complacent, the spectre of the SDL has since dwindled and is almost out of sight.

Furthermore, Westminster's attack on university Muslim associations across Britain is also in danger of alienating the moderate majority, who will now be reluctant to put their head above the parapet and challenge extremist ideology should it rear its ugly head.

A cursory glance at Scotland's university Muslim associations paints the picture of a vibrant group of active citizens. Over the last three years, such groups have managed to raise more than 150,000, during their annual "Charity Week" events, funding water wells, orphanages and hospitals in the world's most destitute countries.

They also engage in inter-faith work on a regular basis – I thought I was reading the opening line of a joke when I was recently invited to attend an event they were hosting with a priest, a rabbi and an imam.

The Muslim community must not bury its head in the sand. Extremist ideology does exist. However, from Dr Mona Siddique at Glasgow University to Shaykh Amer Jamil of the Solas Foundation we are lucky to have some extremely well qualified and moderate voices that are established and respected within the Muslim community in Scotland.

The government's tough-talking approach has not worked in the past and will continue to fail until the Muslim community itself is empowered to tackle the challenges it currently faces.

• Humza Yousaf is an SNP MSP for Glasgow

 
 
 

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