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Government 'suspicious of Muslims'

A Government tendency to view growing numbers of Muslim organisations and individuals with suspicion and a failure to develop a friendship with the three-million strong community in Britain has led to a very real lack of trust, a former Conservative party chairman has said.

Baroness Warsi, who quit her role in Government last August over its response to the then-crisis in Gaza, which she deemed "morally indefensible", has criticised what she called a policy of non-engagement with the Muslim community.

The former Foreign Office minister and first Muslim member of the Cabinet, writing in the Observer , revealed her feelings on the controversial letter sent to mosques across England earlier this month urging Muslim leaders to do more to root out extremism and prevent young people becoming radicalised in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

The letter was condemned as "patronising and factually incorrect" by some Muslims, with many saying it gave the idea th at Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society.

While largely supportive of the intentions behind the letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, whom she describes as a friend, Lady Warsi said the storm of criticism it provoked from some sections of the Muslim community was unsurprising.

She said there had been almost six years of non-engagement, both by the previous Labour Government and now the coalition.

"The reaction to the Pickles letter underlines what I consistently argued for in government - that it was important for us to engage with a broad range of groups and individuals who purported to speak for the British Muslim community, while accepting that, inevitably, some didn't do it very well," said Lady Warsi.

She said there had been a failure to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment, and described the current climate within the Muslim community as one of concern, worry and fear.

"So it's no surprise there is a trust deficit, a questioning of motive to a letter sent with the best of intentions. For too many, the hand of friendship felt like an admonitory finger that was once again pointing at Britain's Muslims," she said.

Lady Warsi also said it was sad that her calls for a meeting, similar to the annual one the Prime Minister has with the Jewish Leadership Council, with members of other major faith communities had not been answered.

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