Blair Promises to Improve Teaching of Islamic Studies

By Stephen Bates and James Meikle — PM says politicians should listen to moderate voices — Report calls for more UK-trained Muslim clerics Tony Blair yesterday pledged to spend _1m improving the teaching of Islamic studies at universities, as Downing Street said more imams should be trained in Britain to reduce reliance on foreign-trained clerics. In a speech to a conference of moderate Muslims in London, the prime minister accepted that British politicians should listen more carefully to the views of “the calm voice of moderation and reason” within the community. He insisted that his government’s foreign interventions had not been based on religion. Mr Blair said: “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use in times gone by of torture to force conversion to Christianity represented the teachings of Christ.” Among those invited by the Cambridge inter-faith programme were the grand muftis of Egypt and Bosnia, but not representatives of more extreme or politicised lobbying groups. The guest list was criticised by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and also by the Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who told the BBC: “The conference is fronted by Cambridge University but organised by Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the communities department, who have deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with Government policy … It’s a colonial style of governing.”