The Sunday Times on the MCB: Getting the Facts Right

28 January 2018

Today The Sunday Times has published an article with a number of assertions about the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), primarily aimed at de-legitimising the organisation.

The MCB is the country’s largest umbrella body of Muslim organisations and works similarly to many other national representative bodies.

Founded in 1997, the MCB now has over 500 mosques, educational and charitable associations affiliated to it and is a cross-sectarian organisation with affiliates belonging to Islam’s diverse religious traditions.

From its very inception the MCB has sought to reflect the views of its affiliates who, by extension, represent a very large cross-section of Britain’s diverse Muslim community.

The majority of British Muslims appear to believe the MCB are doing a good job in representing Muslims, (55% in BBC poll; 51% in Channel 4 poll: figures that are significantly higher than the UK’s political parties) despite claims to the contrary by right-wing think tanks and certain journalists misrepresenting poll data to suit their own agenda (see below for further detail).

It is true that the MCB holds positions that differ from the government. This includes a divergent view in the case of an ex-participant of the MCB’s Leadership Development Programme and the widely debunked Trojan Horse scandal. The idea that such differences of opinion are unacceptable in a democracy and imply that the MCB is “hardline”, provides a greater insight into the authoritarian tendencies of the journalist than about the MCB.

For background, Mr Gilligan has been found to be inaccurate on a number of occasions about Muslims in recent years, including:

  1. Falsely accusing Mr Haras Ahmed of being an “Islamist activist” (see here for the apology)

  2. Falsely claiming that Mohammed Kozbar “blamed the UK for Isil” (see here for the correction)

  3. Falsely claiming Mrs Smith is a member of or affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood or an Islamic extremist (see here for the apology)

  4. Falsely claiming Mr Mujibul Islam was “a willing beneficiary of…corruption” (see here for the apology)

  5. Falsely claiming that “Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim” (see here for correction)

Such information may prove useful for readers of articles by Mr Gilligan on Islam or Muslims.

It appears Muslims are held to a different yardstick when it comes to engagement in public life. In a democracy, the Government and ministers are elected by citizens and it is the prerogative of citizens to call them to account, not the other way around.

Far from being a ‘gatekeeper’ organisation the MCB has always stated that government should engage and consult with all communities.

The Muslim Council of Britain will always ensure that it maintains sincerity and integrity in its relationships with all external parties and where necessary, will be critical and frank. Authenticity will always be the basis of any engagement, and the MCB positions are available on www.mcb.org.uk.

Further details on polling data

The ICM poll interpreted by the Policy Exchange (a think tank that is at the bottom of the transparency index and found to have fabricated information about Muslims by Newsnight) is being entirely misrepresented to reach the conclusion that the MCB does not represent the views of British Muslims.

The method of reaching that conclusion was as follows:

1. “If you needed to engage or influence local or government officials, how do you prefer to do this?” – 20% responded: “through a Muslim organisation”

2. “Which Muslim organisation would you choose to help engage with government officials on your behalf?” – 9% responded with the Muslim Council of Britain.

From this, they concluded that approximately 2% (20% x 9%) of the population support the MCB – a claim reiterated (albeit reworded) in Mr Gilligan’s article.

The MCB serves affiliates rather than individuals and therefore this poll does nothing to demonstrate the support, reach or representative nature of the MCB.

The BBC asked a simple question in a poll “The Muslim Council of Britain does a good job representing the views of Muslims” and the results were as follows:

– 55% agreed

– 28% disagreed

– 16% didn’t know

– 1% refused to answer

Channel 4 similarly asked a simple question in its poll: “To what extent do you agree or disagree that the Muslim Council of Britain represents your views?”, and the results were as follows:

– 51% agreed

– 8% disagreed

– 21% did not know

Further detail on engagement with UK government

Whilst it is the case that the Labour government cut ties with the Muslim Council of Britain in 2009, this was reversed in early 2010.

Furthermore, under the Coalition government, the MCB has met with a number of Liberal Democrat Ministers including the Minister for Communities, Stephen Williams, at CLG in September 2014, the Energy Secretary Ed Davey in 2014, and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg at the Cabinet Office in September 2015.

It is only the Conservative Party with which there has been no formal engagement at ministerial level in recent years.