Many ‘political Islam’ movements share our values, say UK MPs

The government should narrow its definition of ‘political Islam’ and recognise that many Islamic political movements share the same values as Britain, according to a report by an influential committee of MPs.

The report criticises the Foreign Office for using the term to describe both groups that embrace “democratic principles and liberal values” and others that instead hold “intolerant, extremist views.”

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, said: “We absolutely agree with the FCO on the need for a nuanced approach to the broad phenomenon of ‘political Islam’. We only regret that this approach does not appear to have been applied to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, which failed to mention some of what we saw as the most elementary factors that determine the group’s current behaviour.”

The committee said the FCO had “hindered” its inquiries by refusing to give it a full, or redacted copy of the review, or allow Sir John Jenkins to give oral evidence.

The watchdog criticised the Government’s handling of the Review as there was a delay of 18 months between its completion and the release of its main findings last December on the last day the Commons sat before the Christmas recess.

The committee warned the handling of the Muslim Brotherhood review threw up wider concerns about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) attitude to what constitutes “political Islam”.

The body found the “political Islam” tag used by the FCO was too “vague” as the Government uses it to describe groups that embrace democratic principles and liberal values and groups that hold intolerant, extremist views.

Mr Blunt said: “Through its counter-extremism and counter-terrorism strategies, it is clear what values the UK opposes.”

“But the UK’s standing in the world also depends on it clearly articulating, through the FCO, the values that this country supports and therefore the groups with which we will engage.”

Ministers celebrate Eid with Muslims

Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Home Secretary Jaqui Smith and Communities secretary Hazel Blears invited a few hundred Muslims to celebrate Eid with them at the prestigious Darbar Hall of the FCO recently. Also attended many ambassadors from Muslim countries, politicians from all parties, civil servants and media personalities. To welcome his guests, Mr. Miliband said, “The contribution of faith communities to our society and to our politics helps bring values back to the forefront of national life and that is very important, because in the end politics is about your head, it is about doing things that work but it’s also about your heart, and it’s also about deepest values, about justice, about responsibility and citizenship that bring us together.” In her speech the Home Secretary said, “The role that many of you have played in building strong communities in supporting the fundamental view that in the longterm the way that we will tackle terrorism is actually by celebrating the values that we she and deterring people from turning to violent extremism in the first place is absolutely fundamental and it’s the strength of what’s represented here that gives me faith that we will be able to do that in this country and internationally to turn against those who want just not to cause death and mayhem but who actually want to cause division between us in a way that I think the strength of this gathering this evening shows we’re not going to allow to happen.”

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