An “insufficient” number of Muslim community leaders in Britain do enough to tackle antisemitism, Education Secretary Michael Gove has claimed.
He said Muslims had a “responsibility” to counter extremists and to challenge their own community members who attack British foreign policy or Israel’s right to exist.
Mr Gove made the comments while discussing his role in the new Terfor anti-extremism task-force set up by David Cameron following the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May.
As part of the government’s efforts to crack down on Islamists in Britain, Mr Gove will investigate issues related to radicalisation of British Muslims in schools and universities.
Mr Gove warned that while the majority of British Muslims were “peaceable”, there were people who refused to condemn some justifications made by extremists for their actions.
He said: “You don’t often hear people in the Muslim community talking about the antisemitism that lurks behind some of this. You won’t often hear them saying ‘why are you even asking about Israel’s right to exist?’”
Mr Gove was speaking at an event for parents and pupils at Hasmonean High School in north-west London on Monday. He praised Maajid Nawaz, a former Hizb ut-Tahrir activist, and other British Muslims who have worked to warn of the dangers of radical groups.
He said more should be done to stop them feeling “lonely” in their efforts.
Following the meeting, Mr Nawaz, now chairman of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation, said he agreed with Mr Gove’s concerns. “I think there are serious and genuine issues with discriminatory attitudes within Muslim communities.”
He said some “self-appointed” leaders often discriminated against minority voices — such as his own.
“These so-called community leaders need to recognise they only represent their particular mosque, not the whole Muslim community,” said Mr Nawaz.
“They need to do far more to tackle bigotry and discrimination, not just against Jews, but also women and gays.”
Turning his attention to the Middle East, Mr Gove said he was proud to call himself a Zionist because of Israel’s record on democracy and equal rights for women and Arab Israelis.
“If Israel can do it then surely those in Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and so on can do the same,” he said.
Mr Gove added that the involvement of British jihadis “with South London accents” in the fighting in Syria was “heartbreaking”.