Government seeks to reinvent Islam

Government seeks to reinvent Islam

by Louise Nousratpour

Morning Star, 12 October 2006

MUSLIM organisations accused the government on Wednesday of using its financial muscle to “socially engineer” Islamic groups with no objections to Britain’s bloody foreign policy.

Their warning followed a speech by Community Secretary Ruth Kelly, who warned that there would be a “significant shift” in state funding and engagement in favour of organisations which spoke out clearly against extremism. Speaking to a Muslim audience in London, she said: “I do not come here to say that tackling extremists is your problem as Muslims alone. This is a shared problem.”

But Ms Kelly’s words were greeted with disdain by the Muslim community, which said that the minister was trying to hide the fact that the government has long blamed British Muslims for a rise in terror threats by talking of a “shared problem.”

Islamic Human Rights Commission chairman Massoud Shadjareh accused the government of “using its financial muscle to socially engineer a new brand of Islam which will be subservient to its foreign policy.”

Respect spokesman Kevin Ovenden agreed, saying that, by “extremism,” the government meant people and organisations which opposed its foreign policy. “This is an attempt to force Muslim groups to retreat from an anti-war position and could create an atmosphere of suspicion within the community,” he warned.

Ms Kelly’s speech took place amid furore over her Cabinet colleague Jack Straw’s call – backed last night by Chancellor Gordon Brown – for Muslim women to consider removing the veil.

The minister claimed that she “respects” the views of those opposing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but added that these issues could be “exaggerated and exploited” by those seeking to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of British society.

Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German ridiculed her comments and said that, if ministers were serious about rooting out terrorism and extremism, they would pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Studies by 16 US security bodies for the US Senate have concluded that the wars had increased the terrorist threat,” she noted. “Ms Kelly’s comments, like many of her colleagues’, are highly offensive to Muslims and hypocritical. We demand a ceasefire on government ministers making inflammatory announcements against Muslims.”

Ms German further pointed out that Ms Kelly herself belonged to the religious sect Opus Dei, which is perceived by most Catholics as an extremist organisation “with a very murky history.”