Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, and Lord Ahmed, the communities minister, have written to every mosque in Britain urging British Muslims to help purge the country of hate preachers and radicals. The letter states “British values are Muslim values”, and calls the Paris attacks a “hijacking of a great faith” and an “affront to Islam.” But the Muslim Council of Great Britain has reacted angrily, accusing the ministers of behaving like “members of the far right”.
1,100 letters were sent out by Mr Pickles and Lord Ahmed to every imam and Islamic leader in Britain, urging them to assist the government in the fight against radical Islam and offering support. It states that Muslim leaders have “an important responsibility” to prevent young people within their communities from becoming radicalised, appealing to British Muslim values to make the case.
Remarking on the recent Paris atrocities, the letter states: “The hijacking of a great faith to justify such heinous crimes sickens us all. As Muslims around the world have made clear, such actions are an affront to Islam.”
The ministers state that they are “proud” of the way British Muslims have responded to the attack, openly stating “not in my name”. But they urge that there is more to be done, and advise that Muslim leaders can help by emailing the Department for Communities to inform them of the positive work they have done in fostering good relations, and by reporting anti-Muslim hatred to the police or TELL MAMA. The letter also advises that free legal advice is also available to help tackle extremists.
“British values are Muslim values”, the letter continues. “Like all faiths, Islam and its message of peace and unity make our country a better and stronger place, and Britain would be diminished without its strong Muslim communities.
“We would also like to reassure you that in recent days we have met with police chiefs to make sure they are providing the support that mosques need… We have also met with the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group to hear their concerns about responses to the recent attacks and what more can be done.
“We welcome your thoughts, ideas and initiatives on how to ensure that Islam’s true message of peace triumphs over those who seek to divide our communities.”
However, the Muslim Council of Great Britain has bristled at the letter, questioning why Muslim religious leaders have been singled out to receive such a letter. Harun Khan, the council’s deputy secretary, said: “We will be writing to Mr Eric Pickles to ask that he clarifies his request to Muslims to ‘explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity’. Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?”
Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi expressed sympathised with the Council, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today Program “That letter suggested that the Muslim community within Britain can contain its own radicals. The truth is that Islamism like all modern political movements is a global phenomenon transmitted by the Internet, transmitted by social media. I would not be surprised if the Muslim community did not say you’re asking of us something that is not actually under our control.”
However, Prime Minister David Cameron robustly defended the letter, telling a news conference today: “It is absolutely right to write this letter, to say that we all have a responsibility to fight extremism.”
He added: “Anyone, frankly, reading this letter, who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem. I think it is the most reasonable, sensible, moderate letter that Eric could possibly have written.
“Frankly, all of us have a responsibility to try to confront this radicalisation and make sure that we stop young people being drawn into this poisonous fanatical death cult that a very small minority of people have created.”