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January 13, 2003

Blair warned of Muslim backlash against Iraq war

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has made a last minute appeal to Prime Minister Tony Blair to use Britain’s special relations with the US to prevent a military invasion of Iraq, The Muslim News has learnt.
“Even at this eleventh hour, we urge the optimum use of your unique position to avert the destruction of an important Muslim country, notwithstanding the odious regime it happens to be caught up with,” MCB Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie said in a letter to Blair Monday.
In the background of British ministers failing to win support for military action against Iraq, he warned in the clearest terms to-date of a backlash from the Muslim world.
Speaking at the launch of Britain’s latest Hajj delegation at the London Islamic Cultural Centre Monday, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw confined his comments to the “very wide understanding” of Britain’s position from Islamic countries.
“In the event of the occupation of Iraq, one may have secured increased supplies of cheap oil and created trillions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts. But what of the human cost and lasting damage this would cause to US relations with the Muslim world?” Sacranie asked.
“We in the MCB are loath to contemplate what this would do to Britain’s economic and bilateral relations with the Muslim world,” he warned the Prime Minister.
The British Government’s ability to gain Muslim support comes after a sustained campaign of visits and media briefings on the same lines that preceded the launch of the US war in Afghanistan.
The MCB Secretary General praised Straw for “boldly” admitting British responsibility for creating the conflict in the region, notably in Palestine, but said a war on Iraq “would certainly unravel whatever little had been achieved.”
“You would agree that respect for international law cannot be ensured by its violation,” Sacranie told the Prime Minister, saying that even the “collective punishment” of economic sanctions imposed on Iraq for more than a decade was a “crime outlawed under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
Accrediting Blair for leading the US towards the UN, Sacranie emphasised that it was “your opportunity to restore international confidence in the integrity of British foreign policy” by taking the lead to avert a war against Iraq and promote peace and justice in the Middle East.

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