Extremism is a threat to the British way of life and must be tackled head-on, the Home Secretary has said.

Theresa May said extremists were united in "trying to divide communities" and it was up to both communities and the Government to challenge their message.

She also stressed the forthcoming counter-extremism strategy already announced by the Prime Minister for this autumn would deal with all strains of extremism, from "Islamist" to "neo-Nazi".

Mrs May was speaking as she visited Birmingham, which in recent years has witnessed its share of anti-Islamist terror plots and the murder of a Muslim pensioner at the hands of a far-right extremist.

The Home Secretary was meeting city community workers and volunteers who have been tackling extremism, racism and wider issues including domestic violence.

Speaking after the visit in the city's Digbeth area, a historic melting pot of cultures, she praised the "fantastic work" being done.

She said tackling extremism was a challenge the Government was "facing up to", but that it required the help of the public also.

Mrs May added: "In the not-too-distant future we will be launching an anti-extremism, counter-extremism strategy as a Government.

"That will be looking across the board at all forms of extremism - yes, Islamist extremism, but also neo-Nazi extremism.

"What they have in common is trying to challenge the values we share in our pluralistic society and trying to divide our communities.

"The work I've seen today is groups across the board dealing with that, dealing with countering that message of hate, that message of division and bringing people together."

She went on: "I think it is important the Government is bringing forward this counter-extremism strategy.

"I think it shows the importance of this issue."

However, Mrs May said: "It's not just for the Government to act, it is for individuals, for charities, for voluntary groups, for society as a whole to work together and, with Government, to deal with this issue of extremism."

The Home Secretary added: "It is a challenge that we're facing up to - there's a lot of work to be done.

"What I've seen today in Birmingham is the great work that's already being done by groups out there in the communities, by volunteers, coming forward and we can build on that.

"Government working in partnership with society, and tackling those who are seeking to divide us and who are preaching hatred."

Earlier, Mrs May had addressed an audience in the Old Library at the Custard Factory in Birmingham - formerly the old Bird's custard plant.

In an editorial for the Birmingham Mail penned to coincide with her low-key visit to the city, she said the country faced "a generational challenge" to fight extremism.

She said: "Together we can defeat those who seek to divide us.

"Together we can ensure that every person is able to live their life as they choose and fulfil their potential.

"Together we can build a stronger Britain."

In 2013, Ukrainian student and far-right sympathiser Pavlo Lapshyn admitted the murder of 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem in the city and plotting to bomb mosques in the West Midlands.

High-profile Islamist-inspired terror plots have also been foiled in the city, including three would-be suicide bombers who vowed to turn England into "a little war zone".

Irfan Naseer, Irfan Khalid and Ashik Ali had planned to out-do the July 7/7 bombings of 2005, but were foiled by West Midlands counter-terror police and jailed for life in 2013.

Early last year, the city's education system was rocked by anonymous allegations contained in the so-called Trojan Horse letter alleging an Islamist plot to influence Birmingham schools - leading to investigations and several changes of mismanagement at some of the schools involved.