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June 05, 2004

Blair makes direct appeal for Muslim votes

Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a direct appeal to Muslim voters ahead of next week’s series of elections on ‘Super Thursday,’ The Muslim News has learned.

“I treasure the long-standing and close ties between the Muslim community and the Labour Party. Over many years, we have worked together to extend opportunity and combat intolerance and discrimination,” Blair said in a letter sent out to Muslims presumably identified on electoral rolls.

According to a copy of the letter obtained by The Muslim News, the Prime Minister admitted that “the last year has been a difficult one” and that he respected the decision by many Muslims who strongly opposed to military action in Iraq. “But what matters now is that power is handed back to the Iraqi people,” he insisted. He also made a further pledge to “do everything I can” to move the Middle East peace process forward to achieved a negotiated settlement.

Speaking during visit to Jamia Mosque in Derby, Liberal Democrat Leader, Charles Kennedy, chided Blair’s appeal as “once again treating the Muslim community with great insensitivity.” British Muslims were “rightly infuriated” by the violence in Iraq since the war was declared ‘over,’ the photographs of American troops abusing Iraqi prisoners and the US hesitation in granting real power to the new Iraqi government, he said. But by dismissing the issue of the war in two sentences, “the Prime Minister gives little impression that he truly understands the feelings of British Muslims or that he is in any way prepared to admit that mistakes were made,” Kennedy said.

Blair’s appeal comes after a poll in March found that Labour's traditional dependence on the support of British Muslims has halved from 75 per cent to only 38 per cent since the last general election because of the UK government’s role in the Iraq war.

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