On Tuesday 26 August, The Times newspaper attacked the Muslim Council of Britain in its Leader article. On 28 August, it published a shortened version of the Muslim Council of Britain’s response. Since it has failed to publish our full response, we include it here now.
Your leader (Counsel of Immoderation, 26 Aug) grudgingly accepts the fact that the Muslim Council of Britain, a democratic platform of British mosques and Muslim associations, ‘is no supporter of Jihadists’. Our position against extremism and terrorism has been quite clear in word and deed to those who choose to see it throughout our history.
Over the years, your newspaper itself has reported on and recognised this. For example, in April 2005, when our meeting was disrupted by the very extremists we all oppose, your Leader rightly stated that “the MCB deserves to be heard and the thugs must be silent.”
Yet now you advocate that our organisation should be ‘ignored’ because of the alleged activities and statements attributed tenuously to former officials who have long left their posts or the organisation itself.
You also state that the Muslim Council of Britain has extended affiliation to ‘highly dubious’ groups. Yet in reality we are a broad based organisation, from all traditions of Islam. We do not promote sectarianism, as some of our detractors would have us do, by favouring some traditions over others. All of our affiliates are encouraged to seek the common good.
It is quite clear that successive governments have failed to tackle the scourge of extremism. In our humble view, that is partly because governments and this Government in particular, have failed to engage properly with Muslim communities. We claim to have no magic wand in resolving this issue, and we seek no public funding for challenging the threat we all face. But we do risk feeding into the narrative set by extremists by excluding the very people whom extremists oppose.
Dr Shuja Shafi
Muslim Council of Britain
The Times also attacked former Muslim Council of Britain Secretary General, Sir Iqbal Sacranie. He responded with the following letter:
In your Leader (Counsel of Immoderation, 26 August), you attack me for my role in the campaign against the Satanic Verses in the late 1980s. It is noteworthy that you approvingly quote Conor Cruise O’Brien who also commented so disparagingly that, “Muslim society looks profoundly repulsive”.
I certainly reject wholeheartedly any notion that I led ‘an inflammatory and threatening campaign’ against the author of that book. The campaign which I led was for the withdrawal of the profane book that had hurt millions of followers of a faith who, then, as now, had little recourse to defend themselves. It was conducted in a civil and peaceful manner, despite the worldwide outrage and the fatwa of the late Ayatollah.
I yield to no one in my opposition to extremism. I have been physically attacked by the very real extremists whom you mention. It is most unfortunate that you now wish to cast me in the same light as these extremists who, like the late Mr O’Brien, wished to separate all Muslims as ‘profoundly repulsive’.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie