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Tougher anti-terror measures urged

The Government needs to be "more assertive" in challenging extremism, a leaked Home Office document reportedly warns.

The as-yet unpublished counter-extremism strategy includes calls for a review into the operation of Sharia courts, a ban on radicals working unsupervised with young children and changes to rules granting citizenship to ensure people embrace "British values", the Sunday Telegraph reports.

The strategy looks at the wider issue of radical preachers and those who encourage individuals to hold extremist views, the paper says, with a focus not just on terrorism but on behaviour which can cause division and damage to communities.

The document reportedly states that "in the past, there has been a risk that the Government sends an ambivalent and dangerous message - that it doesn't really matter if you don't believe in democracy".

It adds: "We need to stand up and be more assertive in promoting our values and challenging the extremists who fundamentally oppose them.

"This will include explaining our foreign policy (and) promoting mainstream voices supporting the quiet majority in all communities who oppose extremism."

In other measures job centre employees would be required to identify claimants who could be vulnerable to radicalisation, the paper reports, as well as a penalties scheme to make people on benefits learn English.

The document is also said to raise concern following the Trojan Horse plot, saying it was "not an isolated example of schools where extreme views became prevalent".

It cites universities, local councils and charities as being vulnerable to "entryism", where people with extremist views purposely get into influential positions from where they can promote their values.

In November the Government unveiled a sweeping package of counter-terror measures in a bid to bolster the UK's defences amid warnings of a growing extremist threat.

Home Secretary Theresa May revealed the range of draconian powers included in a new Counter-terrorism and Security Bill, including a legal requirement by schools, prisons and councils to put in place policies or programmes to stop would-be extremists from being drawn into terrorism.

Other measures included the clarification of l egislation to ensure insurance companies can no longer foot the bill for terrorist ransoms, blocking foreign fighters from returning to the UK and re-introduced powers to relocate terror suspects across the country.

Shadow home office minister Diana Johnson said: "As senior police officers warn about the scale of Theresa May's cuts and whether they can deal with increasing challenges such as terrorism, more reheated words from the Home Office feels too little, too late.

"The Prevent programme, which is supposed to be tackling radicalisation and all forms of extremism in communities, has been downgraded by this Government. The police are asking for more help and communities increasingly feel let down.

"Theresa May abolished control orders, weakened counter-terror powers, downgraded Prevent work and has failed to properly support the police, or communities, parents and local organisations who are trying to counteract radicalisation.

"We will look at the details of any policy that could help stop young people being drawn towards extremism, but with this Government the rhetoric rarely matches the reality."

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