Monday, October 16, 2006

MCB amazed and concerned

...about losing their government funding.

Talk Veritas has obtained a letter written by Mohammed Bari of the Muslim Council of Britain to Ruth Kelly, and cc'd to all the main party leaders. The whole thing can be read here.

A couple of excerpts:

g) We have noted your decision on funding and engagement with some amazement and deep concern. It appears clear to us that the publicly announced 'shift' in your policy regarding funding is arguably unlawful.

The indication that only those organisations that agree with your particular strategy as the best way to fight extremism will receive your favours is another way of saying that only those who support your government can expect to receive public funds. Access to public funds should not and cannot be dependent on such considerations as on who is and who is not attending the Holocaust Memorial Day.

As a responsible representative organisation the MCB has a duty to represent and reflect the views of its constituents fairly and if those views are unpalatable to the government of the day, so be it. The legal framework and traditions of our country do not allow the government to be vindictive or punitive in the use of public funds.
We know that there are a clique of Islamophobic journalists (including Nick Cohen, Michael Gove, Melanie Phillips, Martin Bright and John Ware), each with a sharp axe to grind, who have desperately and repeatedly tried to malign the MCB and other important Muslim institutions.
h) It is, of course, right that the government seeks to speak to a wide range of Muslim organisations and individuals. It would be wise to distinguish the mainstream, democratically-constituted Muslim bodies from the mavericks.

However, for your department to foster and promote new sectarian Muslim bodies with barely concealed links to US neo-cons is bound to raise justifiable concerns about your department's true intentions.
You cannot expect to succeed by engaging in a merry go round to find Muslims who agree with you. Surely, you can best succeed if you work with and take on board the views of those Muslim organisations that are rooted in the community and who have a track record of delivery.
i) Secretary of State, we would not be true to the real feeling within the Muslims of Britain if we did not raise one final and important point.

In recent months there has been a veritable regular drip-feed of ministerial statements stigmatising an entire community. We have seen ministers' tours and even legislation being proposed on the premise that 'mosques are a problem'. We have been told to accept that greater numbers of Muslims will be stopped and searched and also to 'inform' on our children.

This relentless barrage has been disheartening and you will understand our worry about where all this is leading. Some Muslims have even sought the MCB's advice on whether they should change their names in order to avoid anti-Muslim remarks. This is what happens when a community is singled out by those at the helm of affairs.

This is a great diversion from the many other real social challenges facing all of us in Britain - of caring for our infirm and elderly, strengthening the family and giving a sense of purpose to the young. Our nation deserves a strategy to move forward - what we have been receiving instead from our leaders are hastily formulated responses masquerading as policy.
Finally, in view of your public remarks, please note that we shall be sending a copy of this letter to all mosques and local, regional and national Muslim organisations across the country, including, of course, those affiliated with the Muslim Council of Britain.

Yours sincerely, Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari Secretary General

CC: Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Tony Blair, MP, PC Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt. Hon. Gordon Brown, MP Leader of the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, MP Home Secretary, Rt. Hon. Dr John Reid, MP Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Rt. Hon. David Cameron, MP Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Dr Menzies Campbell, MP

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