Are Muslims being censored in the Conservative Party?

A comment on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee website attacks the Conservative Party leadership for refusing to take on board criticisms of the “interim report” Uniting the Country (pdf here – MCB’s response here) which was issued in January by the Tories’ policy group on National and International Security, chaired by Dame Pauline Neville-Jones:

“When the report was first published, a leading group of Muslim Conservatives came together to offer a response to their party’s policy group. They were scathing in their attack of what they considered to be a ‘weak and damaging document which made unsubstantiated comments’. Authors of the report included Lord Sheikh, Kabir Sabar, Imtiaz Amin, Yousif Miah, amongst others. Their comments were dismissed out of hand. Muslims within the party who voiced concern at the tone of the report found themselves sidelined from an increasingly influential set of people around Cameron.”

The expanded version of Neville-Jones’ report, published last week as An Unquiet World (pdf here), shows how contemptuously criticisms were dismissed. “Uniting the Country” is incorporated unchanged into the new publication. The attack on Muslim Council of Britain is retained (see the MCB’s response here), the division of Islamists into two groups – those who aim to destroy Western society by violent means and those who seek to achieve the same objective by exploiting “democratic freedoms” – is repeated word for word, and there is the same ignorant attack on Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who it is claimed is a follower of Sayyid Qutb and was supposedly banned from entering the UK when Michael Howard was home secretary.

However, Dame Pauline’s report has met with an enthusiastic reception from Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society, who welcomes the Tories’ insistence that “the Government is wrong to communicate with people from ethnic minorities as though they were members of groups rather than individual citizens”. A principle which, if applied literally, would of course deprive minority ethnic communities of any opportunity of collectively influencing the government. Would Sanderson apply the same reasoning to secularists? Evidently not, because the NSS energetically demands the right to be consulted over state policy on religious issues. Yet, in Sanderson’s view, minority communities (and their faith-based organisations in particular) should be excluded from collective representation in the public sphere.