UK Government Minister Warns Mosques About Hate Preaching
A letter from a top British government official calling on United Kingdom mosques to root out “men of hate” is generating push-back from the Muslim Council of Britain.
The letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was co-signed by Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, a member of the House of Lords and sent to 1,100 imams and other Islamic religious leaders.
It called on the imams to dissuade young Muslims from following extremists, urging them to emphasize the threat that extremists pose to British freedoms.
“We must show them the multitude of statements of condemnation from British Muslims; show them these men of hate have no place in our mosques or any place of worship, and that they do not speak for Muslims in Britain or anywhere else,” the letter said.
The letter offended some Muslim leaders. The Muslim Council of Britain responded with its own letter saying it resented the “idea that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society.” The letter from MCB Secretary General Shuja Shafi also disputed the notion “that extremism takes place at mosques, and that Muslims have not done enough to challenge the terrorism that took place in our name. We also reject suggestions that Muslims must go out of their way to prove their loyalty to this country of ours.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron called the letter’s tone “reasonable, sensible and moderate.”
Security services estimate that at least 500 British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. One of them, known as “Jihadi John,” is believed to be responsible for beheading American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, as well as Britons Alan Henning and David Haines.
To combat such trends, Pickles and Ahmad suggested the need for the imams to “demonstrate the true nature of British Islam today” and to show that the extremists do not represent Islam.
“You have a precious opportunity and an important responsibility in explaining and demonstrating how Islam can be part of British identity,” they wrote.
It was accepted more eagerly by other British Muslims.
“If non-Muslims intervene in the Islamic reform debate, they get told: ‘stay out of it’ … It’s a lose/lose scenario for the poor folks. But there is *no* way to undermine both Islamism & fundamentalism if Muslims don’t join everyone else in challenging them,” Maajid Nawaz wrote on Twitter Monday.
Nawaz is the co-founder and chairman of the anti-extremist think tank Quilliam Foundation.
“If we keep shirking, sidestepping [and] obfuscating on the reform debate,” Nawaz added, “it appears o others that we’re happy with the status quo, which is *clearly* very bad.”