Government plans that could see the closure of mosques suspected of inciting extremism have been attacked by Muslim leaders. Sir Iqbal Sacranie said the move would “criminalise an entire community for the criminality carried out by a few”. The Muslim Council of Britain secretary general made his comments in a speech to an east London conference focusing on the role of Muslims in the UK. But he added loyalty to the UK was not incompatible with the Muslim faith. Met Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur and the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer are among the other figures addressing more than 20,000 people at the Global Peace and Unity conference. Wider community Sir Iqbal described the government proposals designed to tackle terrorism the “single most dangerous piece of legislation”. Under the plans, police could seek a court order for the temporary closure of a place of worship if extremist behaviour or terrorist activity was believed to be taking place. Mosques were not specifically singled out in the proposal but most people would see the proposal as referring to mosques and trustees of mosques, the MCB has said. The comments follow a recent warning by the Association of Chief Police Officers that the plan could be seen as an attack on religion. Assistant Chief Constable Rob Beckley, who is responsible for community relations at the association, said if officers had suspicions about a particular mosque they would want to identify those responsible rather than close it down. Sir Iqbal also used his speech to call for a public inquiry into the 7 July London bomb attacks. The MCB’s Sher Khan said the gathering at the Excel centre fulfilled a “very important need to clarify to the wider community that British Muslims are part and parcel of the wider community”.
By ANDREW WOODCOCK BRITAIN’S ethnic minority communities might be given new names in an effort to strengthen their ties to this country. Home Office minister Hazel Blears is to ask representatives of Muslim and other minorities whether they would prefer to be known by US-style hyphenated terms such as Asian-British, Pakistani-British or Indian-British, rather than simply ‘Asians’. The idea is one of a set of proposals to be floated at meetings that Ms Blears is holding around the country to discuss how to steer young Muslims away from radicalism. Ms Blears – appointed head of a new Government commission on integrating minorities by Prime Minister Tony Blair – said today: “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.” She added: “If you want a society that is really welded together, there are certain things that unite us because you are British, but you can be a bit different too.” The proposal is seen as an indication that the Government is considering claims that some second-generation Asians find it difficult to identify with Britain or the country of their roots. Mrs Blears was backed by the Commission for Racial Equality but it also warned of problems ahead. A spokesman said: “She’s hit the nail on the head when she says it’s about how people feel and refer to themselves. “But one person might be happy being classified as one thing and someone of the same race or religion might not.” Muslim groups also responded with caution to the idea, while Conservatives branded it “fatuous”. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “What of the second generations? Why should they be defined as other than British? “These forms of identity based on ethnic background have been tried in the past and have failed.” And Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament said: “Nobody cares for labels. We have to create a stakeholding society and an inclusive society.” Shadow home affairs spokesman Edward Garnier said: “This is a fatuous idea. “I’ve got a growing number of Asian British people in my constituency. They think of themselves as British. They don’t need a Government minister to tell them how to describe themselves.” And Greg Mulholland, the Lib Dem MP for Leeds North West, where the July 7 bombs were created, said a rebranding exercise would “not be remotely helpful”. “I think it’s another gimmick. I’m afraid we need some rather more intelligent and far-reaching solutions.” Councillor Shami Khan, a leading member of Edinburgh’s Pakistan community, said the proposals might go some way towards helping to integrate migrants into the community. He added: “We have to keep our culture but, at the end of the day, by coming here, people are accepting the British way of life and must adopt a British value and must have a respect for that citizenship. “I think this is a good idea and if you call people from South East Asia “British-Asian” that’s okay. I feel Scottish-Asian and I have a loyalty to Britain. “But what we really need to do is to teach people about citizenship and loyalty to this country.”