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David Cameron’s speech highlights the need for fact-based dialogue on extremism

In his first party conference speech since the general election, Prime Minister David Cameron singled out Islamic schools as “teaching intolerance” and announced plans for more regulation on British faith schools.

During his speech, Cameron announced a proposal to give the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), more powers to inspect all religious schools that were “causing division” and teaching inappropriately.

The Prime Minister expressed concerns about Muslim students attending madrassas who allegedly had “their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate.” He went onto say, “…in some madrassas, we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions; being beaten; swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people.

It is deeply concerning that the leader of this country has resorted to such unsubstantiated assertions, mirroring the kind of “conspiracies” he frequently condemns. The Muslim community has seen an unprecedented rise of Islamophobia in recent years, and this kind of rhetoric is not conducive for a cohesive “big society”, and only fuels anti-Muslim bigotry.

Knee-jerk reactions absent of empirical evidence and academic grounding has led to the recent passing of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, which was heavily criticised by civil rights group Liberty, the National Association of Head teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Students (NUS) for being “heavy-handed”. Similarly, the Government’s proposed Counter-Extremism Bill includes within it, a number of questionable measures that contravene the very founding liberal values of this country.

To that end, on Friday 16th October 2015, as part of the ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ initiative, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) will be holding a cross-panel debate on the criminalisation of Islam and tackling extremism in London entitled: The Big Question: Is Islam The Cause Or Solution To Extremism? The panel will include prominent journalists, academics and activists, whose opinions on the subject matter have shaped the current debate.

iERA’s head of Public Relations and Media, Mohammed Hussain said: “The Prime Minister’s comments about some madrassas “teaching intolerance” and “causing division”, is a testimony to the importance of having a fact-based approach in understanding the causes of violent and non-violent extremism. I fail to understand how Mr Cameron claims on the one hand that some madrassas are divisive and intolerant, but on the other hand champions “religious tolerance” as a fundamental British value.”

Mr Hussain added: “Next week’s debate on whether Islam is the cause or solution to tackling extremism is a sincere and robust effort towards improving community relations, as opposed to paying mere lip service to wanting a big society.

To register please visit www.iera.org/dhd

If you are a member of the press, please email media@iera.org to request complimentary access.