A £2.4 million Government fund to fight violent extremism is being used to give Birmingham’s young Muslims lessons in “spiritual well-being”.
The Journey of the Soul is one of 10 city council projects paid for from a three-year grant under the Home Office’s Pathfinder initiative.
Youngsters in the scheme were taken to visit First World War Muslim graves in an attempt to help them connect with their faith.
Media workshops to help women improve communications skills and a picture library showing Muslims in “positive” roles have also been set up.
Last night the council refused to say how many people have attended Journey of the Soul, or any of the other projects.
A spokeswoman said figures were still being “evaluated” and would be published next week.
But Dr Mashuq Ally, council Head of Equality and Diversity, said the projects had been so successful Birmingham won praise from the Government for leading the way in the fight against terrorism.
Dr Ally added: “These are schemes we are developing so the community is more at peace with itself in terms of life in Birmingham and Britain.”
The projects were chosen carefully after consultation with Muslim representatives and the police, he said. The list was approved by Alan Rudge, council cabinet member for equalities and human resources, under pressure for months from members of the Asian community to publish financial details of the year-long Pathfinder schemes.
At a cost of £63,000, Journey of the Soul offers young people “alienated from their elders and wider society a process of exploring self-identity from inward spiritual well-being to project a positive outward focus”, according to a written report by Coun Rudge.
Other projects include:
n Success clubs to develop knowledge, skills and positive attitudes among young people – £82,000
n Young Muslim leadership programmes, aimed at “de-radicalisation” – £27,000
n Governance of Mosques programme to halt infiltration by violent extremists – £51,000
n Madrassahs programme encouraging Islamic schools to interact with mainstream schools – £44,000
The content was devised by the council after consultation with community representatives following Operation Gamble in January 2007, when police arrested terrorist suspects in dawn raids in Birmingham. In May, the Government announced details of its Pathfinder fund to pay for anti-extremism projects in English cities including Birmingham. Former Local Government Secretary Ruth Kelly described the initiative as a key element of the Government’s anti-terrorism strategy.
Mrs Kelly called for strict monitoring of the schemes. A key measure of success would be whether the projects led to “demonstrable changes in attitudes among Muslims”, she added. This week a leaked report by the intelligence services warned Birmingham is a major recruiting centre for al-Qaeda.