The government views Muslims "with suspicion" and its engagement with their representatives is "dangerously narrow," former Conservative party chairman Baroness Warsi has said.
Baroness Warsi, who quit her role in government last August over its response to the crisis in Gaza, which she deemed "morally indefensible", said this approach meant the government "fails to accurately gauge sentiment" among British Muslims.
The former Foreign Office minister and first Muslim member of the Cabinet, writing in the Observer, revealed her feelings on the controversial letter Eric Pickles sent to mosques across England earlier this month, which urged Muslim leaders to do more to root out extremism and prevent young people becoming radicalised.
The letter was condemned as "patronising and factually incorrect" by some Muslims, with many saying it gave the idea that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society.
Lady Warsi said the storm of criticism it provoked from some sections of the Muslim community was unsurprising.
She said there had been almost six years of non-engagement, both by the previous Labour Government and now the coalition.
"The reaction to the Pickles letter underlines what I consistently argued for in government - that it was important for us to engage with a broad range of groups and individuals who purported to speak for the British Muslim community, while accepting that, inevitably, some didn't do it very well," she wrote.
She said there had been a failure to tackle anti-Muslim sentiment, and described the current climate within the Muslim community as one of concern, worry and fear.
"So it's no surprise there is a trust deficit, a questioning of motive to a letter sent with the best of intentions. For too many, the hand of friendship felt like an admonitory finger that was once again pointing at Britain's Muslims," she said.
"The obsessive checking of the backgrounds of those on guest lists to Eid events, the refusal to attend events where there may “possibly” or “potentially” be a speaker whose views we find unsavoury, even when attendance would provide the perfect opportunity to challenge those views, has created a unique approach within government over the last four years.
"This is to view ever-increasing numbers of Muslim organisations or individual activists with suspicion and dangerously narrow engagement to a dozen people from a community of more than three million."
Lady Warsi also said it was sad that her calls for a meeting, similar to the annual one the prime minister has with the Jewish Leadership Council, with members of other major faith communities had not been answered.
Speaking exclusively to The Huffington Post UK after her resignation last August, Baroness Warsi said: "The British government can only play a constructive role in solving the Middle East crisis if it is an honest broker and at the moment I do not think it is."Suggest a correction