Following the recent muddle over Hezbollah, the British government continues to dig itself deeper into the mire with its “anti-extremism” policy.
Hazel Blears, secretary of state for communities and local government, is trying to engineer the resignation of Daud Abdullah, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain. She may not like Abdullah or agree with his views but, frankly, it’s none of her business. The MCB is not a government body and can appoint whoever it wants as its deputy secretary general.
This sort of government interference is condemned by human rights organisations when it happens under dictatorial regimes such as that in Egypt where authorities vet the board members of NGOs and even tell them how they must conduct their meetings.
Of course, the government can choose whether or not to talk to the MCB but, by choosing not to, it will seriously undermine its own policy of engaging with the British Muslim community.
The MCB is an umbrella organisation that claims the support of more than 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools. By definition it needs to include as many strands of British Muslim opinion as possible. In the past it has been criticised for not being representative enough, and now Blears seems determined to make it less representative as a condition of being recognised by the government.
Brian Whitaker at Comment is Free, 24 March 2009
Update: See also “Hazel Blears must back down” by, of all people, Geoffrey Alderman, who writes:
The extraordinary action taken against the Muslim Council of Britain by communities minister Hazel Blears has rightly aroused widespread condemnation. As Brian Whitaker has already pointed out, Blears’s 13 March letter to the MCB, suspending ‘engagement’ with it pending the outcome of its investigation into the conduct of its deputy general secretary, Daud Abdullah, amounts to a piece of quite unwarranted Whitehall interference in the internal working of an independent body operating entirely legally in this country. In principle, whom the MCB chooses as its office-holders is none of Blears’s business. The very unfortunate precedent she is trying to set reflects the practices of a totalitarian state – China perhaps, or Zimbabwe. I am shocked that such a mindset could emerge in the UK.