An international conference on Islam is being held in London next week but without the participation of such mainstream organizations as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Last year, the British government altered its strategy of bringing into dialogue, such organizations as the MCB, while promoting new groups that it was more prepared to cooperate with. The two-day program, entitled Islam and Muslims in the World Today, opens Monday by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Pakistan counterpart Shaukat Aziz. Speakers also include the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric and Britain’s Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly. The concluding session is also being addressed by the UK’s opposition Conservative leader David Cameron.
In a speech by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly MP at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Center in London, she said: “Britain is a country that draws strength from its diversity. Britain’s proud record of respect compares favorably with any country. Far right extremism has never really got a serious foothold here. This is because, at crucial times in our history, the vast majority have come together to speak out against hate and division. But today, alongside the far right, we face another threat that seeks to undermine our shared values, to divide our communities”
The British Government’s strategy for addressing extremism has the following components: Coalitions Against Extremism Uniting Against a New Challenge A New Approach: A Security Response is Not Enough Four Strands – 1. Promoting shared values. – 2. Supporting strong community and national leadership. – 3. Strengthening the role of faith institutions and leaders. – 4. Supporting local solutions. Partnership
Ruth Kelly yesterday challenged Muslim groups who have boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day, in a speech warning Islamic organisations that sitting on the sidelines in the struggle against extremism was “not good enough”. The communities secretary announced that funding for groups would depend on their willingness to take a lead on the issue, and defended the government’s record, insisting: “Britain is a good place to be a Muslim.”
Muslim groups which prove they are trying to outlaw extremism within their ranks are to receive financial support, Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly says. Cash will be available for projects that involve women, that build bridges between communities and are in touch with young people, she said. She said it was “not good enough” to pay lip service to tackling extremism. But some Muslim groups condemned her, saying the government was trying to create its own “state-sponsored Islam”.
Muslim women wearing hijab, or headscarves, should be employed in front-line roles in the media, said a report published yesterday by Ruth Kelly, the minister for women. More women wearing hijab needed to be seen in the public eye, particularly on television, to encourage more Muslim women to put themselves forward, it said.
There has been a mixed response inside and outside Muslim circles in Britain to Prime Minister Tony Blair’s call for educationists and the media to recognise the _true face’ of Islam, and for Muslims themselves to speak out against extremism. Mr Blair, as part of his _farewell tour’, was on the programme alongside senior academic and faith leaders at a conference organised by the University of Cambridge (and held at Lancaster House, London) on the global role of Islam. The gathering opened with a video message from the Prince of Wales, and included a reception hosted by Gordon Brown. Tory leader David Cameron also spoke, having been asked to do so by Mr Blair, and so did the Anglican Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres. Also involved were Shaykh Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, and Mufti Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, along with Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Glasgow, and Communities minister (and prominent Roman Catholic laywoman) Ruth Kelly.