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Muslim groups to face funding "public interest test"

By Paul Goodman
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The test will be overseen by a cross-government group, which has already been established, "to ensure that extreme and intolerant groups cannot gain public engagement or funding".  It could apply to groups that "support the implementation of a Caliphate; rejection of democracy or fundamental rejection of UK instititutions (as opposed to trust or criticism), and calls for the wholesale implementation of sharia".

The public interest test is alluded to in the Government's draft integration strategy, details of which are in front of me as I write.  The paper for an internal "Integration and Tolerance Working Group", called "Creating the conditions for integration", doesn't describe the test in detail, but a paper called "A framework for discussion" for the same group probes extremist attitudes and groups.

It names Hizb ut Tahrir and Al Muhajiroun, describing both as "small" and "stable and declining".  It also cites "Salafism...a separate theogical rather than political trend, but one which raises similar questions of integration. Many Salafi groups encourage exclusionary and confrontational behaviour although this is now being moderated in some cases due to concerns about Islamist extremism and tackling terrorism".

The paper goes on to say that there is an increasing desire among Salafists to contextualise teachings for Britain, and refers obliquely to Saudi funding of the movement - "relatively effectiive and well directed Salafi activities".  It concludes that "it has been suggested that [Salafism] will increase is importance.  Having said this, Salafism in the UK remains a small movement with an estimated 68 of 1500 odd UK mosques."

The test would apply to all potentially extremist groups, and the paper refers to "far right hatred of others, including anti-semitism and homophobia".  However, the bulk of the relevant part of the document explores the views and outlook of Islamic groups in some detail, which suggests that the test has been drawn up with non-violent but extreme Islamist organisations especially in mind.


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