A "lethal cocktail" of alienated youngsters, poverty and lack of leadership within Birmingham's Islamic community has provided a vacuum for extremism to flourish, it was claimed last night.
The warning came amid growing fears the city may be a hotbed for recruiting wouldbe terrorists following yesterday's arrests of four men suspected of being linked to last week's failed London bombing attempt.
Social and political commentators also expressed concern at a lack of legitimate ways of expressing political opposition to the Iraq War.
Dr Tahir Abbas, director of Birmingham University's Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture, said: "All the ingredients that we need are there.
"We have a very significant proportion of the Muslim population that is young and alienated and marginalised and politically outside the mainstream."
Dr Abbas claimed the community has been "neglected" because traditionally they were regarded as passive and peaceful.
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He added that a lack of "liberal, progressive" leadership within Britain's Islamic community had created the void for extremists to take over.
"That kind of cultural, intellectual and political leadership just doesn't exist," he said.
"Hence they revert to a more radical and narrow version of Islam. It is a lethal cocktail."
Dr Abbas claimed it was vital efforts were made to ensure the community - particularly the young - were more involved in the mainstream.
"We need to engage with these young people," he said.
"We need to listen to them and talk to them and ask what is their gripe and how can we address it?"
Salma Yaqoob, national vice-chair of Respect and chairman of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition, also stressed the importance of allowing expression of dissent against the Government's policy in Iraq.
"Yes there is dissatisfaction, yes there is anger at Tony Blair's foreign policies, but that doesn't mean they condone terrorism," she said.
"The key thing we are doing is giving the space for those opposition views in a nonviolent political route.
"Fanatics can prey on people and say 'look how bad it is' and bring in a religious side. The conditions are there but the antidote is to allow a visible expression of dissent."
Ms Yaqoob, who narrowly missed out on being voted MP for Sparkbrook and Small Heath in the General Election, criticised the Government's ostracising of Bethnal Green MP George Galloway for speaking out against the Iraq conflict.
"It is indicative of the undemocratic nature of the Government we have," she said.
"There is anger and frustration there. We have to make sure we keep talking to young people in the community so they don't become vulnerable to negative influences."
Pervaiz Khan, of Birmingham's South Asian Alliance, said the fact that the London bombings were carried out by apparently well- adjusted British Asians needed to be examined.
"That asks questions about how can they not feel part of what is going on here?
"There is some nihilistic vacuum where they feel they can just give up their lives in this way.
"That is worrying. That says something about our society and not just among young men of Asian background.
"We live in a time when most people don't have much faith in our politicians to bring about change."
Gulfram Khan, former chairman of the Aston Conservative Party, added it was vital to address what was pushing Islamic youngsters "over the edge".
"There is an issue around jobs. A lot of disenfranchisement comes when young Muslim kids come out of university. They are educated and they can't get a decent job."
Birmingham's Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities were the most likely to be hit by poverty and lack of skills, said Alan Birks, principal of South Birmingham College.
"It is no good middle class people expecting them to embrace middle class values if they are not going to be able to participate in the benefits of that," he said.
However, Mr Birks added: "Our single biggest cohort comes from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community.
"The youngsters we have coming here are great kids. It would be difficult to associate them with activities like the London bombings."