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January 20, 1999

Fatchett's 'Id message for British Muslims

Foreign Office Minister, Derek Fatchett in an article written exclusively for the Muslim News, for 'Id al-Fitr, highlights the need to strengthen the relationship between the West and Islam. This is a first ever 'Id al-Fitr message from the Government to British Muslims.

He begins by mentioning Ramadan to be a time for reflection for both parties: "[Ramadan] the only month mentioned in the Holy Qur'an is a good time to think about the relationship between Islam and the West."

Mr Fatchett would like to see a dialogue between the West and Islam and "fight misconceptions and prejudices". He writes: "We need to show the people of the West that Islam is not about extremism or the terrorist who abuse its name."

He highlights the need for education and trust to develop between the two nations but stresses: "The education needs to be in both directions. Just as we need to shatter the Western stereotypes of Islam, so we need to fight the suspicions in the Muslim world of the West and its motives."

Mr Fatchett justifies the British government's position on the bombing of Iraq last month: "We acted not against the Islamic World but because Saddam is a clear threat to that world."

Hague more receptive to Muslim issues

The Leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague, in a wide ranging interview with the editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed Versi, on January 12, said his party was looking towards a new future. The editorial commenting on the interview hopes the positive response of the Leader of the Opposition, to Muslim concerns, "gives us hope that the Tory Party has changed. As he has said, he is in a "listening mode". We hope they do not switch it off or tune into a different station the day they return to power." British Muslims have been campaigning for changes in the Race Relations Act and Public Order Act so that it includes outlawing of religious discrimination and incitement to religious hatred respectively. Hague said he was aware of the concerns of the Muslim community and would do everything in their power to bring about that change. "If this involves changing the law in some ways, to try and make sure that Muslims are treated on a fairer basis so that they could be accepted by everyone then, I am in favour of that," he said.

William Hague rejected suggestions that the new Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill, especially the section dealing with conspiracy to commit offences abroad was directed at Muslims and would curtail freedom of expression. He said: "It is not intended to curtail freedom of expression," but he accepted that it was "hastily drafted" and the Conservatives may consider changing some sections in the future. Although the Conservative Government had rejected applications from Muslim schools for funding, Hague denied the Tory Party was against Muslim schools. Why did they deny them funding, he was asked. He replied: "In am interested in the future and not in the past. I am signalling an approach which is very open to what the Muslim community would like." Hague denied that his Party was against Muslim MPs and they had no objections on placing Muslims in winnable seats. He defended why his party did not place Muslim candidates in winnable seats: "Our misfortune in the last elections was that most of the seats were unwinnable."
Now that communism was dead, it is perceived by many in the West that Islam is a new threat. He rejected such analysis, however.

Hague said: "We should not and do not see Islam as an enemy or a threat. It is a religion that we should hold in high esteem that has added an enormous amount to human civilisation." Other concerns that were discussed included the foreign policy of the Tory Party on Israel, Lebanon, Kosova, Palestine and Iraq.

Millenium Dome: Muslim prayer area granted

A meeting is being held this today at midday to finalise arrangements for a dedicated area where Muslims can perform obligatory prayers (salat) outside the Millenium Dome, reports this week's The Muslim News. The meeting is being held by two Muslim representatives in the Lambeth Consultative Group, which deals specifically with the Spirit Zone, and the New Millenium Exhibition Company (NMEC), which is in charge for the overall project. Dr Manazir Ahsan and Iqbal Sacranie, both from the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, will be meeting Jennie Page, Chief Executive of the NMEC.

The decision to have an exclusive Muslim area outside the Dome was made during an earlier meeting between the Lambeth Consultative Group, and NMEC.

A Muslim representative had argued that it was forbidden for Muslims to perform the salat in a place funded by lottery money. The representative had also said Muslims cannot pray in the same area as other religions. In the Spirit Zone, an area allocated by the NMEC, other faith groups will share a place for their prayers.

It was also agreed that the cost of building the Muslim prayer area will be born by the Muslim community. The building will accommodate several hundred worshippers and will have facilities for wudu (ablutions).

The expected number of Muslims visiting the Dome has been calculated at 2 to 3,000. A full time Imam will be on site and will not only lead the prayers but also answer questions on Islam for Muslims and non-Muslims. The meeting will also discuss the content of Muslim contribution to the Spirit Zone. They have to make presentation on life, birth and death.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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