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.
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.