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December 01, 2003

MacShane ‘to publicly apologise to Muslims’

Foreign Office Minister Denis MacShane is to publicly apologise for his Islamophobic outburst against Muslims after coming under pressure from member of his Rotherham constituency, the Muslim News has exclusively learnt.

A statement from the Minister for Europe is expected to be published in the local Sheffield Star on Wednesday, but the full details are yet unknown.

The apology comes as Muslim and community members of his Constituency Labour Party is threatening to write to Prime Minister Tony Blair demanding his resignation if he does not fully retract offensive remarks he made in Rotherham 10 days ago.

MacShane’s speech to his Rotherham constituency, which was leaked to the media, said that British Muslims had to make a choice between the “British way” of political dialogue and non-violence and the “way of terrorists”.

Councillor Jahangir Akhtar told The Muslim News that his apology will only be accepted if it is a retraction and says that the Muslim community is at the forefront of condemning terrorism. He suggested that he should also reflect concerns about Muslims in Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya.

Macshane’s comments were “disgraceful,” “Islamophobic” and the Minister was “pandering to the extreme organisations,” he said.

An emergency motion passed at a meeting of Muslim leaders and community members of Rotherham’s Consituency Labour Party on Wednesday called upon Labour’s National Executive Council to note that there was no confidence in MacShane as the local MP and to take “immediate disciplinary action against him to prevent any future malicious attacks on the already vulnerable British Muslim community.”

His comments were “ill-founded” and designed to portray Muslims in the media as “conspiring against the state” similar to the way the Nazis accused the Jews in World War II, the motion said. “The constant vile propaganda disputing the patriotism of the Jews was so well executed that it led to what we know as the holocaust,” it warned.

Jaan Khan, a Labour Party activist and businessman, described MacShane’s remarks as “inflammatory.” He told the Muslim News that it was a scandal and an outrage and the that minister was “divisive” in appealing to the extremist fringe of society.

The Muslim Council of Britain also said last Friday that nothing less than a full and public apology would be acceptable. "The widespread feeling of hurt and anger among British Muslims has not abated and is not going to be abated until Mr MacShane admits he was wrong to imply that British Muslims sympathised with terrorist actions," MCB Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie said.

After repeatedly refusing to apology for comments, MacShane said in a statement that he regretted "any misunderstandings that may have arisen," but Sacranie said that this fell "far short of the retraction and unambiguous apology we are seeking for the immense damage he has caused."

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