Debate must be the only reply to religious extremism

11th July 2008 at 01:00
I am pleased to see The TES acknowledge the importance of community cohesion and preventing violent extremism across further education by placing your article on the front page (FE Focus, June 20)

I am pleased to see The TES acknowledge the importance of community cohesion and preventing violent extremism across further education by placing your article on the front page (FE Focus, June 20).

My advice to Bill Rammell, the further and higher education minister, and to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills is that the whole agenda of violent extremism is of critical and central importance, and that FE colleges have a vital role to play. I did advise that guns and knives can be the more immediate issue facing some colleges on a day-to- day basis.

In my discussions with principals, everyone expressed that they took all forms of violent extremism seriously, including religious extremism, and will respond as necessary. All recognised the complexity of these issues and the need to handle them sensitively, but people did believe that colleges have an important role to play here.

My intention is not to establish a hierarchy of extremism - that would be too simplistic and pretty unhelpful - but to foster a sophisticated debate on the complexities of understanding and responding to religious extremism without offending anyone, in particular Muslim staff, students and communities.

I have been working to develop the support needed for college staff and leaders to enable them to be better equipped to respond effectively to extremism in the interests of learners. I have been deeply impressed by the constructive responses.

Lynn Sedgmore, adviser on social cohesion, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

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