YOUNG Muslims in Bradford told a powerful committee of MPs that the Government's counter-extremism programme was creating a climate of "suspicion" and "surveillance".

The Home Affairs Select Committee today travelled to Bradford for the first time in its history to hear directly from the city's teenagers and young adults about how the Government is tackling extremism.

The committee, which counts Bradford West MP Naz Shah among its members and scrutinises the work of the Home Office, is conducting an investigation into the controversial Prevent counter-extremism programme. 

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Keith Vaz and Naz Shah were among the main speakers at an event to discuss the Government's Prevent strategy held at the Bradford Hotel

Keith Vaz and Naz Shah were among the main speakers at the Select Committe hearing in Bradford

It is gathering evidence for this review, before it reports its findings to Prime Minister David Cameron in April.

One young Muslim man told the committee he had appeared on television to speak out against extremism, after two teenagers from Dewsbury travelled to Syria. 

He said: "I talked about how we can be British and Muslim. I'm proud to be British and I'm proud to be a Muslim.

"After that interview was aired, I was questioned about whether I was a radical."

Another young man said of Prevent: "It's racist, its damaging, it stifles academic freedom and free speech, it stigmatises students."

The participants, from local schools and the University of Bradford, held discussions with MPs in groups at the Bradford Hotel in Hall Ings before reporting back to the room what they had talked about.

One young man said his table was confused about what the Government meant when it talked about promoting 'good British values' like democracy.

He said: "We didn't totally understand what it meant. These are moral values, not just British values."

Others said they had thought twice before posting their political views on social media, for fear of being wrongly identified as an extremist by the authorities.

Many raised concerns about the Government's rhetoric on Islamic extremism, saying ministers were too quick to make links between integration issues and terrorism.

And they said there were not enough positive stories about Muslims in the media or on television soaps.

MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told the Telegraph & Argus the committee had come to Bradford after being invited by Ms Shah, and would also be holding similar meetings in Birmingham and Manchester before finalising its report. 

He said they thought it was important to talk to young people, saying the committee was more accustomed to hearing from "a lot of men, in particular, in grey suits".

Ms Shah said: "I think it's positive. It is the first time since Prevent has been launched that we are having a meaningful dialogue with young people."
She said she was "not a fan" of the Prevent strategy, saying she felt it "created a culture of mistrust".

University of Bradford student Adam Aslam, 19, who described himself as "a young Muslim who sees himself as traditional, but proud to be British", said he was glad the MPs had come along to hear the views of his generation.

He said they had previously felt like they were "the least likely to be consulted".