MOSQUE leaders are being urged to take the fight against extremist ideas onto Facebook and other social media sites.

Religious scholars mingled with community activists for a 'digital summit' in Bradford on Saturday which outlined how social media can be used to promote positive messages.

It was hosted by website Imams Online whose chief editor, Shaukat Warraich, said it was time for "traditional" imams to "keep up" with new ways of communicating.

"Imams are doing great work but we need to help them communicate in an innovative way to the younger generation.

"There are lots of good imams doing great work in mosques. What we need to do is showcase that online," he said.

"Around 60 per cent of the Muslim population in this region are under 25 and most are social media connected."

He said extremists used social media in a "very sophisticated way."

Mr Warraich cited the example of Imam Qari Asim, of the Leeds Makkah mosque.

"Asim has been using Facebook and Twitter very well and has a huge following. He is a young man who has really embraced social media. He has a youthful message and speaks the language of youth," he said.

Mr Warraich said British imams could learn a lot from their American counterparts.

"A lot of young Muslims in the UK are following imams in America. They are watching imams who have a global audience.

"We are bringing British imams together to be more switched-on in their use of social media."

Dr Bilal Hammam, Wakefield-based director of British Muslim TV who led a workshop at the digital conference, said the hardest part of a social media strategy was "providing substance", a problem that everyone was wrestling with.

He added: "I think extremism happens when community fails - it is in the cracks. It is why people find solace and meaning online."

Dr Hammam said the work of thousands of imams goes unrecognised, despite their work to build communities.

"Let's hear the voices of imams and what they are about. There is some mind-blowing engagement taking place."

Ridwana Wallace-Laher, who is based in Bradford, works for the charity Penny Appeal which sponsored the event.

She works alongside mosques in Bradford and says they are grasping the opportunities provided by social media.

Directing young people to trustworthy sources of information is important and mosques can play their part in that, she said.

"It is important that people have a forum to talk about these things and to get answers from people who know what they are talking about."

Zulfi Karim, of Bradford's Council for Mosques, urged Facebook and Twitter to do more to stop online extremism.

Mr Karim, who did not attend Saturday's summit and was not invited, said: "Getting imams online is not our focus. Our focus is stopping radicalisation online."

He added: "Yes, imams have a role to play but the real work is for parents who should be watching what their kids are doing."

Mr Karim said that Bradford was an "innovator" when it came to combating extremism.

He pointed out that only last week a Government minister had praised the work being done in Bradford to counter the "extremist narrative" of the so-called Islamic State.

Lord Tariq Ahmad, minister for countering extremism, said on Friday he was "encouraged" by the work being done in local mosques to try to stem the flow of people travelling to Iraq or Syria.