Tories set sights on ‘separatist’ British Muslims

The Conservatives will today accuse Islamic groups including the high-profile, mainstream Muslim Council of Britain of promoting separation and ignoring the wishes of the people they represent.

A report by the party’s policy group on national and international security will tear into the MCB as part of a generalised attack on the concept of multiculturalism, which it says has divided people rather than simply respecting their differences. The report will underline comments made by the party’s leader, David Cameron, who warned yesterday that separatist Muslims who promote sharia law and demand special treatment for their faith are the “mirror image” of the British National party.

In an attack on the MCB – which was until recently feted by government ministers – the report says: “Its hardline members tend to dominate policy and crowd out more moderate and varied voices. As a result the MCB’s claim to ‘foster good community relations and work for the good of society as a whole’ is hard to reconcile with some of the positions it has taken.”

Last night Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, the former diplomat who chairs the policy commission, said multiculturalism “has tended on the whole to emphasise differences between us rather than actually creating a framework in which difference flourishes”.

While stressing that the group was not singling out Muslims, she did criticise the MCB’s approach. “We would like it to say that they actually stand specifically and explicitly for integration,” she told BBC2’s Newsnight. But it “does not in our view take a sufficiently strong stand against that kind of view”. She attacked the MCB’s supportive references to the conservative Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

But on the same programme, Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary of the MCB, said Mr Qaradawi had spoken out against extremism. “In the report, in all its mentions of the Muslim Council of Britain, there’s no mention of any of the positive work we’ve done,” he said. “The MCB is proud to stand for integration. We want British Muslims to play their full role in all aspects of British society, we want obstacles to be removed.”

Guardian, 30 January 2007

For the MCB’s defence of multiculturalism see (pdf) here.