Muslims Opposed To New Ethnic Labelling Suggestions

BRITISH Muslims gave a hostile reception yesterday to suggestions that ethnic minorities should be identified by the country they emigrated from. Hazel Blears, the home office minister tasked with tackling Islamic extremism in Britain, said she would discuss with community leaders whether “British-Asian” or “Indian-British” may be preferable terms to simply “Muslim” or “British”. She compared the terminology to that used in America, where “Italian-American” and “Irish-American” are commonly used labels. Downing Street played down the significance of the move, which it said was intended as a point of discussion rather than a concrete proposal or policy position. But Mrs Blear’s comments provoked an outcry from Muslims. Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said the idea “simply makes no sense”. He added: “It’s quite misguided to try to emphasise ethnicity alongside Britishness. People’s ethnic background becomes less important over time. “For example, my own parents came from India to Bolton, in Lancashire, in the 1960s. “I have visited India once when I was five years old and can barely speak their first language, Gujarati. My son Adam is five and doesn’t know a single word of it. “It is absolutely absurd to discuss my being less than 100% British.” Mr Bunglawala added that he would be happy to be identified as a British Muslim and that he believed most of the Muslim community would feel happy with being labelled by their faith, rather than ethnicity. Manzoor Moghal, chairman of the Muslim Forum, added: “What is being proposed is divisive . . . it would create a lower strata of British. It gives people labels and dilutes their citizenship compared to original, white British people. It is not helpful in creating the togetherness that they have been talking about.” However, Mona Siddiqui, a senior lecturer in Islamic studies at Glasgow University, claimed that “British-Asian” more accurately reflected the identity of first and second-generation British immigrants from the Indian sub-continent. She said: “I think people have over-reacted to this suggestion because of the current climate around labelling and ethnic profiling. “I think ‘ethnic minority’ is such a vague term that it should be binned, but I don’t see the problem with being identified as British-Asian. The term is broad enough to recognise that some people are British while not being white, Anglo-Saxon. “The issue over whether people should be identified as Muslim, Hindu or Sikh is a different debate. For some people, religious labelling could be seen as a new form of racism.” Ms Blears indicated that the idea was part a set of proposals to be floated at meetings that she is holding around the country to discuss how best to steer young Muslims away from radicalism. She said: “In America, they do seem to have the idea that you’re an Italian-American or you’re an Irish-American, and that’s quite interesting. “I am going to talk to people and ask how does that feel? It is about your identity and I think it’s really important.”