Muslims in Birmingham should be taught about Britain's foreign policy to tackle critics of the Government's involvement in Iraq, a Home Office minister said yesterday.
On a visit to Birmingham, Home Office Minister Paul Goggins said the local community must work with Government to address the disaffection among young Muslims.
He said this included education on the country's foreign policy to tackle perceived ideas about UK involvement abroad.
The subject was one of a number of areas of concern raised by delegates at the meeting to discuss issues arising out of the terrorist attacks in London.
The minister and his Home Office colleague Hazel Blears are holding talks in a number of British towns and cities to address issues ranging from social exclusion to the role of mosques and imams.
About 150 people from faith and community groups, the police and voluntary sector organisations attended the talks at Edgbaston cricket ground.
The outcome of the talks will be put to Home Secretary Charles Clarke at the end of the month.
Husima Bibi, a 16-year-old from Tipton Muslim Community Centre's Reach youth project, said the day had given those present an opportunity to speak out about their concerns.
She said: "I thought it would be boring, but it was actually interesting. We could talk and not just be talked at."
Mr Goggins admitted he would have liked more young people to attend the talks, but thanked the Birmingham community for an intelligent discussion.
He said the discussion raised issues common to Muslim communities across the UK, including a belief that UK foreign policy contributed to the July 7 attacks.
"Whether real or perceived, people feel that foreign policy had an impact, Mr Goggins said.
"We clearly need to reflect on that. We can disagree and still be constructive - we need to take the views expressed seriously."
Efforts were now required to "fully explain" Government work overseas, including international development and initiatives to tackle global poverty, he said.
Mr Goggins also stressed the need to address poverty among Muslim communities.
He said: "There has been a suggestion that poverty was a trigger for the July 7 bombings. I do not agree.
"But disaffection does exist and Government and local groups must work together to address it.
"I think a big message for the people of Birmingham is that the Government is trying to resolve such issues with investment in health and education."
As part of his visit Mr Goggins met workers from Balsall Heath's Islamic Resource Centre and youth sport organisation Local Leagues. This was followed by a trip to the Victoria Street Mosque in Aston.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, said he had been encouraged by the talks and was glad the minister had an opportunity to see community projects first-hand.
"Government must work closely with grass roots organisations if it is going to engage young people successfully," he said.