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March 13, 2003

Blackburn Muslims tackle Straw on Iraq war

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is expected to face a tough time at a meeting with Muslim constituents in Blackburn on Friday over the government’s support for a war against Iraq, The Muslim News has learnt.

The meeting was arranged by the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM) to coincide with his weekly surgeries. “This will be an opportunity to lobby him. We will do our best to influence him. But I doubt it if it will be effective,” one member of the Council of Mosques told The Muslim News.

Former Chairman of the LCM, Maulana Ahmed Sidat, said 140 delegates are expected to attend at 11 am tomorrow “to show anger of the Muslim community at the Government’s support of the war against Iraq and the double standard they have adopted on Israel-Palestinian issue”. He said majority of Muslims in Blackburn were upset with Straw and that he may face a major revolt from his supporters in the next General Elections.

Straw will be presented with a letter outlining Muslim community’s concern on the impending war. “We …are very concerned and horrified at the prospect of another war against Iraq, and we are very appalled by the negative policy that the British Labour Government has adopted under your leadership in blindly following the United States,” says the letter, seen by The Muslim News.

The letter warns Straw that the consequences of going to war would “push us to make some serious and conscious decisions in the next general election which may not be as fruitful as before”.

Last month, Straw came under fire from his local parliamentarian constituents for not taking notice of the strength of opposition to a war against Iraq.

Blackburn Trades Union Council accused the Foreign Secretary of being a hawk, saying he was “one of the world’s most prominent advocates of an unprovoked, illegal war on Iraq, alongside Messrs. Bush, Blair and Rumsfeld.”

Muslims, who make up 20 per cent of his constituents, have been particularly riled by Straw repeatedly claiming in his speeches about the Iraq crisis to represent the people of Blackburn. Two weeks ago, the Foreign Secretary withdrew at the last minute from speaking at a local anti-war demonstration in Blackburn citing “security” concerns.

Many members of the Mosque Council are Labour Party members and The Muslim News has learnt that many have already resigned because of the Government’s lack of concern over the killing of 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat, India, in February last year and the war in Afghanistan. More have threatened to leave the party if UK joins US military action against Iraq. In last year’s Local Council Elections, the Muslim community unseated a Labour member, when Imtiaz Patel won a seat for the Liberal Democrats in the Labour stronghold of Brookhouse ward.

For further information contact us on 020 8863 8586 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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