World Bulletin/News Desk
A prominent British Muslim has accused the government of copying the language of the far right after ministers wrote to imams urging them to explain to fellow Muslims how Islam is compatible with being British.
In a letter to over 1,000 imams last Friday, Eric Pickles, the minister for local government and communities, urged them to explain to fellow Muslims how Islam can be "part of British identity", saying they had a responsibility to root out anyone preaching hatred.
Muslim groups said the letter unfairly singled them out.
"The letter has all the hallmarks of very poor judgment which feeds into an Islamophobic narrative, which feeds into a narrative of us and them," Tahla Ahmad of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told Sky News.
The letter comes at a time of heightened tension in Britain with security forces warning an attack is highly likely and members of the Jewish and Muslim communities saying they are fearful, for different reasons, after the recent Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris.
David Cameron defends letter and said the letter, written by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, was "reasonable, sensible and moderate". The prime minister said Mr Pickles was "absolutely right" to write the letter urging leaders to do more to tackle extremism.
Harun Khan, deputy secretary general of the MCB, said his organisation would be writing to the government to complain.
"Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society? We will be writing to Mr Eric Pickles to ask that he clarifies his request to Muslims to 'explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity" said Khan.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said the letter was patronising, factually incorrect, and "typical of the government only looking at Muslims through the prism of terrorism and security."
Britain's 2.8-million Muslim community has been mostly praised by politicians since the Paris shootings for peacefully condemning them, though Sajid Javid, a Cabinet minister and the most senior Muslim in government, has said Muslims have "a special burden" to track down extremists.
In the letter, Pickles and Tariq Ahmad, a junior minister and lord, said imams needed to help the government do something it couldn't achieve on its own.
"You, as faith leaders, are in a unique position in our society. You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility: in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity," the letter read.
"We must show our young people, who may be targeted, that extremists have nothing to offer them ... show them these men of hate have no place in our mosques or any place of worship."
Ahmad told BBC radio 4 that the letter was in part meant to offer Muslims reassurance the authorities were working to prevent reprisals against them after theParis shootings.
The Muslim Council of Britain's reaction was "disappointing," he said. "Within the letter there's an explicit paragraph saying Muslim values are British values. You can't be more explicit than that," he said.
Fiyaz Mughal, director of Tell Mama, an organisation that monitors anti-Muslim attacks, said it had registered a slight increase in incidents since the Paris killings, with death threats and hate mail sent to London mosques.
Police had also stepped up patrols at mosques in central England. "Muslim communities are feeling a sense of fear," he told Reuters.Last Mod: 19 Ocak 2015, 23:06