A #525,000 Government campaign aimed at winning the "battle of hearts and minds" to prevent Islamic extremism in Birmingham was launched yesterday.

Cohesion Minister Parmjit Dhanda joined Councillor Alan Rudge, Birmingham City Council's cabinet member for equalities and HR, at the Ghamkol Sharif Mosque in Golden Hillock Road, Small Heath.

They met members of the Muslim community and the mosque's chairman Salim Akhtar to discuss the "Reclaiming Islam" project and how to tackle radicalism.

The funding was awarded to the city by the Department for Communities and Local Government through the Preventing Violent Extremism Together Pathfinder Fund.

It will be used by the council to fund 11 projects focusing on young people, religious institutions, and women and media.

Mr Dhanda said it was important for the city not to be afraid to tackle radicalism.

"We need to win the battle of hearts and minds," he said. "That is why we have created this #6 million project fund nationally.

"It is about accepting the reality that some people out there are breeding radicals and we need to tackle that. We shouldn't be afraid to do that."

He said there would also be a heavy focus on young people and students - the group often thought to be at a high risk.

"In terms of university students, it is an area of focus in our department," he said.

"We are doing a great deal with universities to ensure that young people aren't radicalised.

"There is also going to be a particular focus with the Pathway funding on supporting women and young people.

"This particular project is working through the Ghamkol Sharif Mosque and another 11 mosques in Birmingham around governance and supporting Imams and individuals and the charities commission."

His comments were backed by Coun Rudge, who said the launch demonstrated how Birmingham was leading the way for community relations.

He said: "We have always had good relations with all our different communities. Our objective is to bring people together and not separate them and we need to remove people's misconceptions.

"We are proud that we are the first to launch our projects and we are launching all 11 of them today.

"We went to the very grassroots of the community and asked them what they would like us in the council to do and from what they said, we designed projects with that help.

"They said they welcomed our help on these matters."

Among the 11 Birmingham projects is a programme to support the training and development of imams in partnership with the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab).

Another will focus on working with Islamic schools and madrassahs to promote community integration and a third area will involve a series of media skills workshops to enable Muslims to communicate with the wider community.

Mr Akhtar said Muslims in Birmingham felt concerned by the city's links with terrorism. But he said the project would help tackle issues in the city, which had "very good race relations".

"This is a small amount of funding but it is something towards the right direction. It is not enough but it is something."

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