Blair in moderate Muslims appeal

Tony Blair says he wants the “voice of moderation” among Muslims to be heard, as £1m funding was announced to boost Islamic studies at UK universities. Ministers hope the money, announced as a report criticised teaching quality, will help train more imams in the UK. At a conference on Islam, Mr Blair also called for closer links between Islamic schools and mainstream state schools.

Muslim News editor Ahmed Versi was among those at the conference, he told BBC News that overall, the language used by Mr Blair was “quite welcoming”. But he said he did not properly address the most important issue to Muslims – what he called the “double standards” of foreign policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. “These are the issues which are radicalising young people and he did not talk about that,” he said.

Labour peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, a critic of the government’s foreign policy, told the BBC the conference was “fronted” by Cambridge University, but had been organised by the government which had “deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with government policy.” He accused Mr Blair of using “divide and rule” tactics.

BBC News, 4 June 2007

See also the Independent, which reports that “Islamic studies will be designated ‘strategically important’ to Britain’s national interests, allowing tighter official scrutiny of university courses”.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission has characterised this as “social engineering designed to highlight Islam as a problem rather than a solution to extremism”.