UK lacks counter-terror policy, says Musharraf: Pakistani president hits back at British critics

Pakistan’s president, Pervez Musharraf, claimed yesterday that Britain lacked a long-term counter-terrorist strategy and argued that Islamist extremism was a home-grown problem for Britain rather than his country’s responsibility. Speaking before meeting Gordon Brown in Downing Street, and in response to persistent British criticism of his record on counter-terrorism, Musharraf set out the shortcomings he sees in the UK’s efforts to deal with militant young Muslims, pointing out that all the July 7 2005 bombers were born in the UK. Julian Borger reports.

Islamic school plans meet with public opposition

Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic missionary group plans to open a madrasa for 500 boys near London’s 2012 Olympic village. The school will be part of an 18 acre complex that includes a visitor and conference centre and a new entrance to West Ham tube station. A submission to planning authorities is some months away but the scheme has attracted much criticism, with more than 270,000 people signing a Downing Street petition opposing it.

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.”

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.”

Blair, Muslims Draw Up Plan To Tackle Extremists

By Gideon Long LONDON (Reuters) – British Muslim leaders and Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed ways to tackle radical Islamists on Tuesday in the wake of the London bombings, but face a tough task to win round disaffected young Muslims. Senior imams, Muslim politicians and representatives of the Muslim Council of Britain went to Downing Street where they had an hour-long discussion with Blair. “There was a strong desire from everybody there to make sure we establish the right mechanisms for people to be able to go into the community and confront this … evil ideology, take it on and defeat it,” Blair told a news conference afterwards. Muslim member of parliament Shahid Malik said there was “a massive appetite” among Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims to weed out radicals. “We recognize we’ve got to work better at confronting those evil voices — as minute as they are — inside our communities,” he said. But radical Muslims dismissed the meeting as a sham and even some moderates said they were suspicious of Blair’s agenda. “The whole focus has been on trying to put the blame on Islam and the Muslim leadership,” said Ahmed Versi, editor of the Muslim News, Britain’s biggest selling Muslim newspaper. He said there was “deep concern” in the Muslim community “about how far Blair may try and impose some kind of secular interpretation of Islam in his declared aim of helping Muslims to find a ‘moderate and true voice’.” SHOCK WAVES The attacks of July 7, and the revelation that the bombers were British Muslims and not foreign militants, has sent shock waves through the country’s Islamic community. While condemning the bombings, Muslim leaders have had to accept there are radicals in their midst who advocate violence and preach hatred of the West. Some Muslims have called for reform in Britain’s mosques, which they say are out of touch with young Muslims. Others have urged police to clamp down on radical Islamist groups who regularly canvas outside mosques and on university campuses. One such group, Al Muhajiroun, disbanded last year but its former members are still active. Its former leader in Britain, Anjem Choudary, said Tuesday’s meeting at Downing Street was an irrelevance. “The type of so-called Muslims at this meeting are those who toe the government line,” he said. “They are the lackeys of the British government. They’re the ones who have been appointed by Tony Blair to be the official voice of the Muslims.” He said Britain would inevitably be attacked again by Islamist militants if it refused to change its foreign policy in Iraq, the Middle East and Kashmir. “For us, the main objectives are to work to implement the sharia wherever we are and obviously to support the jihad wherever it is taking place,” he added. Faced with such militancy, the Muslim Council of Britain faces an uphill struggle. While it is an influential umbrella group which brings together some 400 British Muslim organizations, it has come under fire from some young Muslims who say it is out of touch with their feelings.