Extremism: a conversation worth having

I recently came across a speech made by Michael Gove in June 2009, titled "What is education for?" While I learned little from it, I did discover it was here that the man who was soon to be England's education secretary first publicly denigrated community cohesion, saying that it "gets in the way of ... education". As soon as the new coalition government had the chance, it deprioritised this important area, which goes to the heart of our multicultural society. While in theory schools still have a duty to promote community cohesion, it means little in practice.

In Birmingham, which is currently home to about 187 communities, parallel and separate living is very much alive. In my new book, Dear Birmingham: A Conversation with My Hometown, I stress the importance of bringing people together.

While I would support Professor Ted Cantle's call to put cohesion back on the schools agenda ("Schools must play a key role in combating extremism, experts say", 31 May), in my view they alone cannot be expected to deal with this major area. The source of many of the problems and issues surrounding conflict and "un-community" lies beyond school; the response to them equally needs to involve the whole community.

Karamat Iqbal, Author of Dear Birmingham.

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