Nick Clegg has expressed concern that the Government’s plans to promote “British values” in schools could alienate moderate Muslims.
The Deputy Prime Minister has written to the Muslim Council of Britain in an attempt to reassure it about the move, which followed allegations that a “Muslim agenda” was being introduced in some schools in Birmingham.
Mr Clegg is worried that some Muslims are offended because their religion is often singled out when ministers talk about “British values”. He believes that David Cameron and Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, may unwittingly anger Muslim community leaders the Government needs to tackle extremism and could fuel Islampohobia among the British public.
His concern echoes the dispute between Mr Gove and Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who feared that the hardline approach to extremism favoured by the Education Secretary could brand all Muslims as potential terrorists.
In his letter, the Lib Dem leader said: “Being Muslim does not contradict being British, nor is it in tension with it. A person can uphold their religious and cultural identity as well as British identity.”
A Lib Dem source said: “Singling out one faith in this way could give rise to Islamophobia, and ultimately could make our country less safe. Nick Clegg believes that moderate Muslims in Britain are the best antidote to extremism and much more effective than any number of decisions from Whitehall. He believes that moderate Muslims in Britain are key to safe and happy communities, and should be praised not singled out in an attempt to gain headlines.”