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May 18, 2002

Muslim leaders to take Hain to task over his Islamophobic remarks

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)is holding a meeting with Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain on Monday over remarks last week in which he stigmatised the whole Muslim community for the rise in racial tensions and for some of the problems associated with terrorism, reports The Muslim News.
“The purpose of the meeting is to seek clarification on his recent statement about the Muslim community, immigration and asylum seekers,” MCB Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie told The Muslim News. “We are willing to work together to identify concerns of our communities,” he said.
In an interview with the Sunday Times last weekend, Hain singled out Muslim groups as “isolationists.” Islam was a "much bigger factor than racial tension" and there was the tendency of a minority to isolate themselves that left them vulnerable to exploitation by "bin Laden-type individuals" and targeting by racists and Nazis, he said.
His Islamophobic outburst, following comments by Home Secretary David Blunkett that immigrants were “swamping” schools, provoked a backlash of criticism from Muslim leaders. The Muslim News said that the Foreign Office Minister was particularly offensive to second and third generation British Muslims by implying that they were still “foreigners” and would only be accepted as UK citizens if they conformed to certain undefined types of behaviour.
The meeting with Hain follows the MCB holding talks with Blunkett earlier this week. Sacranie said that the meeting with Home Secretary was to outline a range of concerns “from so-called isolationism to unwillingness to integrate, forced marriages and asylum-seekers”. After the talks, he said that Blunkett was found to be a “perceptive and listening Home Secretary.” The Muslim community were “now looking forward to addressing the serious problems arising from the absence of protection against religious discrimination and incitement to religious hatred,” Sacranie added.
The MCB has also written to Prime Minister Tony Blair, praising his re-assertion of the principles behind his support for faith schools. Sacranie said that Blair hit the “nail right on the head when he said in his Newsnight interview that it would be wrong to ‘tell the Muslim community that they are the one community that can’t have schools’.” In his letter, he said that the Prime Minister “not only reaffirmed a very important principle, you also recognised that the controversy about faith schools, which has been revived recently basically reflected a desire in certain circles to derail your agenda of national inclusion and integration.” From this recognition, the Muslim community expects the government to deal with the policy implications of a situation in which the community felt excluded yet at the same time found itself accused of isolationism, the MCB secretary general said.

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