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March 14, 2003

War on Iraq would be seen as an attack on Islam, says former Cabinet minister

Former Culture Secretary Chris Smith, has warned the Prime Minister that war on Iraq by the US and UK “would be seen as an attack not on Saddam Hussein but on Islam”, reports The Muslim News.

Speaking at a meeting in the House of Commons Thursday, Smith said he was concerned that the consequences of the war would be “horrendous” and hoped that Tony Blair would “listen to the concern on the perception that would result in such a war”.

The meeting was jointly called by the Muslim Council of Britain and Labour MPs Mohammad Sarwar and Alice Mahon. About half a dozen other MPs also took part in the discussion how a war against Iraq could be avoided.

The former Culture Secretary said he was also concerned about the instability that would be fostered in the aftermath of the attack on Iraq. He believed it would be “more difficult to have a solution in Palestine and will destabilise other Middle Eastern states”. Instability would ensue and “the logic of axis of evil” would be to then target Iran, Smith said. He considered this as “just madness”.

Mohammed Sarwar, Labour MP for Govan, Glasgow, who also voted against the Government’s policy on the Iraq crisis, said that the war was illegal. A unilateral attack on Iraq “would set a precedent which could be cited by China if it wanted to attack Taiwan, or India if it wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped attack on Kashmiri guerrilla camps in Pakistan” he warned.

Sarwar, Britain’s first Muslim MP, also echoed the concern of Smith that the region would be destabilised and that many Arabs and Muslims “regard the current American course of action as nothing less than war against Islam”. He suggested that Israel, “under cover of a war in Iraq, might seize the opportunity to transfer large swathes of the Palestinian population into neighbouring countries”. The humanitarian consequences would create over three million refugees and “leave nearly two thirds of the population facing starvation” Sarwar warned. “Do we want to return to an age of barbarism?” he asked.

Sabah el-Mukhtar, a committee member of the MCB, hoped that the crisis would be resolved peacefully. Coming from Iraq, he voiced fears for the safety of his 80-year-old father and nieces and nephews in Iraq. He said that the Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain do not believe that a case for war was made. “The Iraqi people did not elect Saddam Hussein. Why should they be punished?” el-Mukhtar asked, adding that it would be “genocide.”

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