SHAFAQNA -Â TheÂ five-year counter-extremismÂ plan unveiled by Britain has drawn strong reactions from Muslim groups and non-governmental organizations in the country.
As part of the plan to be submitted to the parliament in the fall, the BritishÂ government aims to prevent itsÂ citizens from leaving the country to join radical groups andÂ confront home-grown extremism, namely “Islamist extremism”.
“These people aren’t just extremists, they are also despicable far-right groups too, and what links them all is their aim to groom young people and brainwash their minds,” saidÂ Prime Minister DavidÂ CameronÂ during a speech on MondayÂ at a school in Birmingham.
However, severalÂ MuslimÂ groups and NGOs in the country believeÂ that Cameron’sÂ message and itsÂ plan could further isolate the British Muslim population.
Omar al-Hamdun, head of theÂ Muslim Association of BritainÂ (MAB), said Cameron’s speech could be detrimental to Muslims in the U.K.
“For example, Cameron is right in his views on the need to counter-extremism but we think this strategy willÂ cause more harm to British Muslims than good,” he said.
Al-Hamdun stated thatÂ he did not agree with Cameron’s remarks, in whichÂ he saidÂ “lots ofÂ Muslims do not identifyÂ themselves as Britons”.
“Muslims are told that you shouldÂ integrate and be part of the society. ButÂ when Muslims try to integrate and be part of the society, they are accusedÂ of entryism,” he said.
“The British government encouraged Muslims to be governors. But when Muslims becameÂ governors and participated inÂ politics,Â they triedÂ to push Muslims away from the Trojan horse and accuse them of imposing their own political ideologies and Islam,” he added.
Hamdun alsoÂ criticizedÂ Cameron’s aim to “further spreadÂ British values” — which designatesÂ universal valuesÂ such as rule of law, freedom of expression, and democracy –Â as part of the newlyÂ unveiled plan, which he said itself contradicts to saidÂ “British values”.
Raza Nadim –Â spokesman of the human rights groupÂ Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), which purports toÂ lobbyÂ for an increasedÂ Muslim presence and representation inÂ British politics — told Anadolu AgencyÂ that the anti-extremism strategy was incorrect andÂ wouldÂ cause further problems.
“IÂ don’t thinkÂ this policy is sincereÂ and many Muslims listening to it think they are seen as a problem by the government,” he said.
TheÂ BritishÂ government’s anti-extremism plan will also bring in someÂ legislative proposals,Â which include theÂ closure of certain religious venues and the ban of speeches by certain Muslim religious figures at universities and schools.
The head of the organization, which has reaped its share of controversy over theÂ years — it was for instance bannedÂ from university campuses in 2004, The Guardian reported,Â afterÂ the National Union of Students called it “anti-Semitic”, a charge that MPAC refutesÂ –Â highlighted that the plan will cause nothing but further problems as Muslims will think they do not have the right to freely express their opinions in the British community.
CameronÂ vowed to use his countryâ€™s liberal values to challenge the “bigotry, oppression and theocracy”Â of such groups but said the authorities would be tougher in enforcing them.
“We have lacked the confidence to enforce our values,”Â he said, adding there will be “no more turning a blind eye on the basis of cultural sensitivities”.
“Our values are so great that we should want to enforce them for all, including new arrivals, including people subjected potentially to those practices,â€ he added
The government would take steps to prevent religious and ethnic segregation in Britainâ€™s schools and on housing estates,Â CameronÂ added.
Mohammed Shafiq, head of theÂ Ramadhan Foundation, also reacted to Cameron’s speech in British daily The Guardian on Tuesday.
“The prime ministerâ€™s speech has made it all about Muslims, yet he has not engaged them about his counterterrorism strategy: if Muslims are central to defeating the poisonous narrative then why not engage the community?â€ he wrote.
The prime minister distanced himself from reports of expanded U.K. military involvement in Iraq or Syria, insisting any “boots on the ground”Â needed to be from those countries. However, he did not rule out further British air support against Daesh.
Lawmakers voted against military action in Syria two years ago, blocking a government proposal to join U.S.-led airstrikes against Daesh in Syria, although MPs did approve strikes against the group in Iraq.
More than 700 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join extremist groups and hundreds have returned to the U.K., according toÂ counter-terrorism police.
There are aroundÂ 3 million Muslims in the U.K. which represents nearly 5 percent of the country’s total population.