Youngsters from white and Asian communities need to integrate earlier, a community worker told the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
The Secretary of State visited Dewsbury to see a new project to bring together youngsters from very different areas.
The scheme, which saw Asian children from Thornhill Lees brought to predominantly white Chickenley for games of football, is part of the government’s counter extremism strategy which is in addition to its 'Prevent' anti-radicalisation strategy.
Prevent aims to root out home grown terrorists in the making through community cohesion work.
It is being heavily implemented in Kirklees, with several council officials employed on Prevent contracts.
But it has been criticised by some, including Dewsbury born Tory, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, for stigmatising Muslims and focussing on the wrong things.
In an exclusive interview with the Examiner on her visit to Chickenley Community Centre, Mrs Rudd vowed the government was doing all it could to tackle extremism is on both sides.
She said she was sure the controversial ‘Prevent’ strategy was working.
Mrs Rudd said the policy was giving as much importance to tackling far-right extremism.
“Prevent is successful,” she said. “I know that because I’ve spoken to the families whose children were stopped from going to Syria.
“In the last year we think it was 150 people, of which 50 were children.
“I have visited some of the groups that are run by Prevent that have stopped people being radicalised.”
Mrs Rudd said she could not comment specifically on national newspaper reports that a group of 40 neo-Nazis were being monitored amid suspicion they were plotting attacks on Muslim organisations in Dewsbury, Batley and Leeds.
She added: “All I can say is we take far-right terrorism just as seriously as any other type of terrorism.
“I think it’s important to point out that Prevent doesn’t just work with the Muslim community, it works with far-right groups.”
Paul Moore, Community Development Officer for Chickenley Community Centre, said he had told the Home Secretary working with young children was key to breaking down the barriers between the communities.
He said: “I’ve heard racist comments from white and Asian kids, but they tend to be teenagers.
“One of the things I said to the Home Secretary is we need to work with kids when they are younger – about eight to 12-years-old – so they’re not scared of their counterparts.
“Hopefully that will help stop some of the racism that does exist.
“I think once kids get to 13/14 they’ve already formulated opinions based on what their dad or mum says and what’s in the media.
“In some areas of Dewsbury, Chickenley is seen as a no go area for Muslims.
“We’ve had incidents of taxi drivers and bus drivers being stoned.
“A lot of work has gone on with local councillors and the police to try and put that right.”
He added: “Integration isn’t something you can force on anyone, it has to occur naturally.
“What we’re saying is you can show young people that they have more in common than they have different.”
Clr Paul Kane, Dewsbury East, said he welcomed the Home Secretary’s visit.
He said: “It’s important that we in Chickenley can be seen to be trying to integrate kids from both sides of the town.”
Clr Kane said Kirklees had been given £15,000 by the Home Office for work to boost community cohesion and other projects were being planned.