Emails to the MCB on issues and concerns
I understand a program is to be broadcast that casts doubt on the MCB's
reputation as an organisation representing Muslims. Whilst it does not
represent all Muslims it does represent a large section of our community
so I was a little worried & perturbed to hear that the Panorama program
was to air a biased view of the MCB & its affiliates.
BBC journalism is respected the world over for integrity, accuracy and
an unbiased view though this has not always been the case as Greg
Philo's excellent book "Bad News from Israel" pointed out. I for one
hope that on this particular occasion the criticism of a as yet unaired
program in unfounded.
I am writing to express my surprise at the attack your paper launched
against the MCB.
The MCB is the most representative organisation for Muslims in the UK.
I am convinced of this by the fact it is labelled as being
unrepresentative by two small groups of Muslims.
One group thinks it is not 'Islamic enough' (ie too moderate), whilst
the other thinks it 'too extreme' (ie not moderate enough).
It is a bit like being a football referee: if both sides think you
were biased against them, then you probably got it right!
|Dear Brothers at MCB,|
I was appalled to read Martin Bright's attempt to demonise Muslims for
adhering to Islamic teachings, whether this be shariah law which
guarantees justice to all whether Muslim or non-Muslim; modesty by way
of maintaing hijab and unnecessary mingling of men and women which
leads to leud and destructive consequences; or for an elected government
for the Muslims and non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic State. If Europe
can have a state based on a set of common values why can't the Muslims,
if they so wish, given that the Muslim countries are ruled by self
appointed brutal dictators, despots with tacit support from British
Governemtn and establishment, not hte public, and other western
The Government has started this demonising and the press and elements
who hate others who are different to them seem to think they have a
licence to sow discord and untruth in the name of openness and
'investigation'. If Muslims scrutinise the policy of Governement or
individual organisations then that could potentially constitute an act
that undermines the national interest and thus constitutes
extremism. That is the sort of thing the press should be standing up for
by defending people's right to expose attrocities and human right abuses
here and abroad.
The press follows where the Government leads. The issue of double
standards exists in the press as well as in Government foreign and now
domestic policy. The treatment of Muslims and others outside the British
terrrotories differently, when it comes to seeking diplomatic help,
will in no way convince nor advance the idea that all British nationals
are the same. There is clearly one rule for the British white and one
rule for the 'British Muslim' with an ethnic extraction. Now the
proposals to ban ideas, organisations, stifle legitimate criticsm and
debate, and to derogate from Human Rights legislation confirms
suspicions of great numbers in the Muslim community that Muslims' are
ok to walk over. Also British Muslims receive an inferior service, if
at all, from British consular staff in other countries, when thugs and
torturers harass them or punish them abroad on mere suspicion or at the
direction of British intelligence (Alam Gafur's case in Dubai following
7/7). So what is the point of citizenship if you are seen as an enemy
from within and second class citizens, almost akin to criminals.
Britain is increasingly no different to France or other hostile european
countries. The great myth that Britain is more cohesive and tolerant of
diversity is all too evident for all to see. This is good in a sense
as Muslims now know where they stand and that the Government really
views them as traitors and sees their faith and way of life as backword.
So the days of lip service paid by Government about the great religion
of Islam is over.
What the Journalists deliberately distort or hate is the idea
that anyone else can have an idea or a way of life that is different
from the one they would like to impose on everybody else. That is
extremism and intolerance.
The misguided and ill informed advisors to the British Government
and certain Government ministers as well as people from the
establishment, mainly newspapers, not the public I hasten to add, are
leading the way towards demonising and criminalising a community which
is overwhelmingly law abiding and growing numbers of whom are engaged in
professional and voluntary work, delivering services to the British
Short term knne-jerk reaction and policy making is not the way to
achieve peace and tranquiity, it has already started to send the wrong
message that no matter what you do as an individual you will never ever
be a equal citizen, because the Governmet will willingly abuse your
trust and good nature for political ends. I wonder wh the BNP are never
seen as an extreme element which the white community need to root out
and defeat by way of argument and community action. That would be a
false and illogical argument.
I do not expect nor hold the whole white community responsible for the
existence of BNP or their hatred and intent to harm Muslims and others.
In the same way the newspapers and journalists like Martin Bright should
not expect the whole Muslim community to be responsible for the actions
of a criminal few. I condemn any act of terror committed by
individuals, organisaitons and government wherever they are committed in
the world and do not make a distiction. Taking the life of innocent
people is a crime everywhere.
I say that to promote co-existence, understanding is required along with
an willingness to tolerate other people's way of life. If anybody thinks
their way is better and more beneficial for humanity as a whole let them
argue and win over followers. Let journalists be more responsible and
think twice before trashing the reputation of good organisaitons and
individuals in the name of freedom and because fo their own intolerance
of other religions.
The Muslims will remain united under the current wave of attack from the
Government and media. Muslims may disagree with each other but we will
not tolerate divide and rule and intimidation of our community. Muslims
beleive in one islam and there is no moderate and extremist Islam, if we
are to be extremist we should be in one respect, not to distort the
truth and sow discord and disunity in Britain.
|Mr. Hess Moontasir|
|Dear Mr. Bunglawala|
May I take this opportunity to thank you for the excellent letter to
the BBC Director General concerning the forthcoming BBC 1 Panorama
It is indeed accurate to state that the BBC has repeatedly displayed a
pro-Israel basis. This is specifically the case with the BBC 1 evening
news aired at 6 pm. That programme never conveys to the audience that
the Occupied Territories are exclusively Palestinian and this includes
East Jerusalem. Nor does it mention the fact there are over 150 UN
Resolutions on Palestine. Furthermore the monstrous 400 mile "security
wall" savaging Palestinian Territory and condemned by the International
Court of Justice in the Hague is ignored by the evening news presenters.
Palestinian deaths - including children shot whilst picking
strawberries - are ignored whilst Israeli deaths (also tragic and wrong)
are given more prominence.
Why when innocent Palestinian women or children are killed by the IDF
in the Occupied Territories are the tragic deaths described
blandly? Especially when one considers that Israel illegally occupies
the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in contravention of scores of
UN Resolutions. Pardoxically far stronger, more emotive language and
terminology is often used when innocent Israelis are killed by
Reporting should be even-handed and not partial to any side. All life
should be valued regardless of colour, creed or race. Moreover the
conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians needs to be discussed and
reported with reference to UN Resolutions - which are explicit and have
to be implemented. This is an approach the BBC has lacked.
At last you are saying what we in the secular movements for human rights
for Palestine have been saying for years; the BBC has consistently
maintained a pro-Israel position in its reporting since the start of the
Some suggest that this is the result of its fear of being labelled
anti-Semitic and it is true that anyone- Jew, Christian, Muslim or
secular- who dares to proclaim the rights of Palestinian Christians and
Muslims is accused of this crime, often by Zionist racists.
However, you are right to suggest that there are sinister forces at
work within the BBC, both right-wing and racist. Israeli war-crimes are
ignored or their reports confined to graveyard slots, Israeli spokesmen
and apologists are given air-time when Palestinians are denied access,
the context of the Intifada studiously ignored to such an extent that
(as Greg Philo's recent book has shown) the less educated British public
knows nothing of the Nakba and has only a hazy idea of who is occupying
Recent examples of this bias are clearly manifest in the reporting of
the Gaza withdrawal, which has concerned itself only with the privations
of 7000 Israelis while ignoring thirty years of oppression of a million
Palestinians and the failure to acknowledge the importance of Israel's
nuclear arsenal on Iran. None of us can forget the shameful fate of a
programme which dared to publicize this.
You will now be accused of anti-Semitism by Labour Friends of Israel
and by the racist media which allows no criticism of Zionism. My advice
is to speak out clearly and bravely; there can be no concessions made to
this poisonous lobby and its servile supporters within the BBC. In doing
so, you will be speaking for those without a voice- the Christian and
Muslim Palestinians and those of us in Britain of all faiths who dare to
suggest that they have rights.
I was shocked and saddended to read about the slur cast on the MCB on
your front page yesterday. As the largest Muslim Umbrella organisation
of the UK, you must know that they have the full support of the majority
of Muslims in the community, and that to try to discredit them, by
implying that they are extreme because of beliefs about the illegality
of the Israeli action was an ill judged move.
It is clear that the letter upon which you based your article and
'anti-Israeli' claims was one which was readily available to everyone on
the MCB. If this is the level of investigative journalism that you
encourage your reporters to take part in, then I feel sorry for the
state of journalism today.
As to its belief about the the existence of a pro Israeli lobby, this
certainly does not discredit MCB. In fact it places their cynicism in
exactly the right places. You can clearly see the pro-Israeli lobby at
work in your articles relating to the MCB and this issue.
Almost every single Muslim, and many many non Muslims deplore the
actions of Israel and its poor human rights record in relation to its
behaviour with Palestine and Palestinians. The MCB is in no way
extremist as a result of this view - merely representative of any
person, Muslim or no, who has a conscience and a brain.
I hope to see an apology printed for the misleading article that you
printed, and for the sake of good journalism to encourage you to behave
like a reputable broadsheet, not a sensationalist Red Top, putting 2+2
together and making 15.
|S Miah |
Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah
I pray this letter reaches you in a good state,
I am utterly appalled at todays Sunday Observers report on the MCB. I think
at such a crucial time, the Observer has not only misrepresented the actual
situation of the MCB but has deliberately used misleading information to
'divide' the muslim community. I, on behalf of Young Muslim Organisation UK
give full support to the MCB that it is a representative of the majority of
the moderate muslim voice in the UK. At moments like this, the media must
not only be fair but be accurate in its reporting on sensitive community
|I agree completely with your criticism of the articles
in today's Observer. I was incensed and immediately
wrote to the editor as follows:
In your front page article on 14 August ‘Muslim
leaders in feud with BBC’ you say that the BBC ‘has
not been known for its pro-Israeli stance’, and quote,
as if to prove your point, a head of press for the
Israeli government. It is a pity you chose not to
mention the recent detailed research from the Glasgow
University Media Group showing that pro-Israeli bias
undoubtedly does occur, especially in television.
And the phenomenon is not new. As far back as the
nineteen sixties, Christopher Mayhew wrote in ‘Publish
it not’ of a pro-Israeli bias in British broadcasting
which was ‘for the most part inbuilt and unconscious,
a true reflection of our cultural prejudices’.
Interestingly he also was involved in a Panorama
programme which he believed to be biased. He had
provided a hard-hitting interview with President
Nasser of Egypt and the producer reneged on a
commitment to show it in full, instead adding a
second, ‘softer’ interview with the Israeli Minister
of Foreign Affairs, Mr Abba Eban.
We pretend to wonder why we are in such trouble in
this country and abroad, but there are none so deaf as
those who do not want to hear.
To ridicule the MCB's accusation of an Israeli bias at the BBC without
mentioning that *ALL* of your reporter John Ware's questions directed at
Sir Iqbal Sacranie on /Muslims in Britain/ were in fact on Israel and
the Palestininan issue is surely a disgraceful stance for the BBC to
take. Your organisation has lost all respect in my eyes and as a licence
payer I demand your resignation. I expect a written reply.
Yours in Disgust,
|For the attention of Gaby Hinsliff,
I am writing in regards to an article in The Observer (Sunday 14 August
2005) regarding investigation of mainstream Muslim organisations by the
Home Affairs editor at The Observer, Martin Bright. I hope that you are
the right person to address this to.
I have been inundated with emails sent to me and circulated within the
Muslim community about this particular newspaper column and would like
to summarise them to you for the benefit of your organisation.
Many in our community are appalled by the unsubstantiated
headline-grabbing accusations by Mr Bright. As pointed out in the
responses to Mr Bright’s article by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)
and other influential mainstream Muslim organisations, Islamic Forum of
Europe and Islamic Human Rights Commission, Mr Bright is well known for
his inflammatory Islamphobic remarks and seems to have made a career out
As the politics editor of The Observer, I respect that you are in the
position to know that reporting needs to be accurate, objective and
factual. My Bright has unfortunately failed on all accounts. He has
surprisingly decided to launch an all-out attack on the MCB, an
organisation that represents about 85% of the British Muslim community
through its links to over 400 organisations. It is headed by Sir Iqbal
Sacranie who has been knighted for this work and was recently invited to
a meeting in 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister.
Mr Bright has obviously taken advantage of the fact that most of the
readers, like himself, will have little understanding of Islam and hence
would not be in a position to be able to distinguish wrong from right in
his report. He undoubtedly is exploiting media focus post 7/7 and the
reputation of The Observer newspaper to channel his prejudiced views. I
am very much surprised that Mr Bright has been given the platform by
your organisation to do so. I hope that you will now offer MCB space in
your newspaper to provide your readers with a response to such an
I do support calls for Muslim community leaders to play their part to
tackle disenfranchised youths who have largely grown up in an era full
of military interventions, invasions, human rights abuses and erosion of
our civil liberties. But it must also be recognised that responsible
members within media groups must also play their part in tackling the
small number of mavericks within their organisations that directly
and/or indirectly fuel hatred between communities through their
inaccurate and irresponsible reporting.
I do understand that as a media organisation you are in the business to
sell news, and that it is intrinsic that the news sells. But Mr
Bright’s approach to writing is such that had he been in charge of
labelling a manufactured good then he would have been sued under
consumer protection rules for false description of goods. Had he worked
as a research consultant his contract would have been rescinded for
producing work without thorough research and for poor analysis.
Indeed this bad reporting would not affect sales of the newspaper, as
good quality news written alongside Mr Bright’s column, by professionals
in the organisation made up for the shortfall. But a reputable
organisation should always avoid sub-standard reporting.
Please note that I would be happy to arrange my local mosques and
Islamic organisations to provide a task shop for any of your reporters
to learn about the core principles of Islam. Also, I can find liaison
points where your reporters can contact for information.
I look forward to your reply. Please note that I would like to
circulate your reply to people who have emailed me with their concerns.
After reading Martin Bright's article ("Radical Links of UK's Moderate
Muslim Group") about the Muslim Council of Britain, I was dismayed.
The reasoning behind Bright's attack on the MCB is unclear, but what
is clear is that it is of paramount importance to clarify the factual
inaccuracies of the article. The media frenzy and sizeable tension
post London's terrorist attacks has left community relations on a
knife edge, and Bright is a brave man to try and upset this balance
without the requisite facts.
Having seen the leaders of the MCB in the media frequently when
denouncing terrorism, issuing fatwas on those responsible for the
suicide bombings and even visiting Iraq in an attempt to help free
British hostages, I was shocked to see their credibility being
vilified by critically false reporting. Bright asserts that many
within the Muslim community are growing concerned that this
self-appointed organisation is crowding out other, genuinely moderate,
voices of Muslim Britain. This statement is both false and
unsubstantiated. As a democratically elected organisation they can
hardly be described as self appointed. And just who are these
"genuinely moderate" voices of Muslim Britain being crowded out?
Bright fails to elaborate.
Bright portrays the MCB as sympathising with some of the anti-feminist
notions of the Jamaat-i-Islami party, asserting that the MCB has been
criticised for having no women in prominent positions. This is another
false claim. The MCB's Deputy Secretary General is a woman. One of the
main committees within the MCB is the Social and Family Affairs
committee, chaired by a woman and comprising an overwhelmingly female
majority. How does this in any way reflect the "extremist roots" so
The Muslim community is already under immense pressure to distance
itself from extremism and the MCB has been doing this consistently
since its inception. It is a relatively new organisation dealing with
unprecedented media attention, therefore it is essential that the
facts surrounding it are clear for the public to judge it on its
merits. Bright's article was misleading to say the least, and I fear
for anyone who was introduced to the MCB by his inaccurate and
|Dear Observer Politics Editor, Gaby Hinsliff,
The Muslim Community in the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames
strongly denounces yesterday’s vitriolic attack by your Martin Bright in
the Observer (Sunday 14 August 2005) on the *Muslim Council of Britain*
(MCB) ~ and its affiliates Jamiat-ahl-I-Hadith ~ and the Islamic Foundation.
Recent attacks by both the media and the Government on Islamic beliefs
held by the Muslim Association of Britain, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and now the
Muslim Council of Britain have shown that it is not any individual group
under attack, but Islam and Muslims.
In the article ~ /“Radical links of UK’s Moderate Group”/ ~ Islamic
teachings such as coming into contact with dogs, free-mixing, and
shaking hands with members of the opposite sex are attacked as
"extremist". Yet these views and values are equally held by the
Orthodox Jewish Community who are not consequently labelled as
extremists. The article is written in a way which depicts leading
Islamic intellectuals ~ such as Mowlana Maududi and Sayyid Qutb ~ whose
teachings are followed by a substantial number of law-abiding Muslims,
as extreme and subversive.
The MCB's condition on supporting the upcoming Festival of Muslim
Cultures ~ provided its activities do not contradict the teachings of
Islam ~ is wholly reasonable and only to be expected of any Muslim
organisation. Yet the MCB’s Secretary General’s position on this is
viewed by the Observer as /extreme and regressive/.
MCB is also condemned in the Observer’s editorial for refusing to attend
the Holocaust Memorial Day, and for allegedly differentiating between
suicide attacks in Britain, and in occupied Palestine. Boycotting
/Holocaust Memorial Day/ is in line with the vast majority of Muslim
groups who have called for a “/Genocide Memorial Day”/ which will
commemorate all victims of genocide ~ both in the Holocaust and in other
parts of the world since World War II.
As for differentiating between attacks in London and in occupied
Palestine ~ even the Pope has made this distinction condemning attacks
in London, New York, Madrid and Bali ~ but explicitly leaving out
Palestine due to the specific circumstances of that situation. If
Muslims are to be condemned for this, then so must the Vatican and
indeed other activists and scholars from different faith and non-faith
backgrounds who make other ~ sometimes more controversial claims.
I write with reference to the article in last Sunday's Observer, pp 8
and 9, *Radical links of UK's 'moderate' Muslim group.
As someone responsible for inter faith relations in the Diocese of
Leicester, I would like to express my sadness about the aspersions aimed
at the Islamic Foundation, Markfield, and at the Muslim Council of
Britain. These two organisations are doing their best to provide a way
for Muslims in Britain to feel part of national structures, and be
committed to this country. The Muslim Council would not claim to
represent all Muslims, but its leadership is not self appointed, as you
claim, but elected. It is the largest single forum, and you yourselves
state that it represents 400 organisations across the country. Within
400 organisations, there may be questions about a couple, as you
suggest. But what of the vast majority who are only trying to work hard
at local and national level to ensure a positive Muslim contribution to
British life? Several leading members of the Council are from
Leicester, and I can witness how they play a key role in community
leadership, and inter faith understanding.
I have had extensive involvement with the Islamic Foundation, where
Christian clergy provide half the advisory group for a Certificate
course, through which about 30 Muslim men and women each year are
trained for chaplaincy work in hospitals, prisons and colleges, all key
sectors in enabling partnership for faiths within British life.
Together we have been running dialogue groups in Leicester for five
years, and the Foundation plays a full part in the Leicester Council of
Faiths, and the Leicester Faith Leaders Forum. One of the Foundation's
staff is on the Church's Commission on Urban Life and Faith. They are
also an institution that works hard for more involvement for women.
The work of MCB and the Islamic Foundation has not been easy since 9/11,
and now 7/7. It is not helped by this article.
|I am writing to express deep concern over the article published above.
As a British Muslim I feel that the views expressed in the article were
based on very shaky research.
As a moderate Muslim I strongly endorse the MCB as a credible
organisation. It is disappointing to read Martin's commentary; not
very 'bright' insight into an organisation that has been a proactive and
positive force for Muslims.
|Dear Gaby Hinsliff
I read closely the coverage in Sunday's Observer relating to
the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
I have known the MCB well ever since it was founded and knew
too the organisation from which it developed in the 1990s,
the UK Advisory Committee on Islamic Affairs (UKACIA). I am
not a Muslim myself but have worked professionally with the
MCB over the years in a range of ways, and with many
individuals involved in its senior management. I simply do
not recognise the organisation portrayed in the Observer.
The MCB has been responsible for a series of extremely fine
publications and projects concerning the nature and role of
British Islam, and about the duties of Muslims towards
mainstream British society. It is extra ordinary and indeed
outrageous that the Observer apparently did not bother to
familiarise itself with this substantial body of work.
It is also deeply disappointing that the Observer accepted
and perpetuated a simplistic picture of 'good Muslims/bad
Muslims' and 'extremist Muslims/moderate Muslims'. This
reductive and binary view of complex reality is one of the
problems that people working for a just society, and against
racism and Islamophobia, are up against. One is not, alas,
too surprised when such simplicities are peddled by the
tabloid press. But a serious paper such as the Observer owes
its readers better.
I hope you will make amends by publishing articles of
similar length which give a far more accurate and fair
account of British Islam, and of the challenges with which
it is grappling.
If you have read this far, you may be wondering where, as
the phrase is, I am coming from. I do not claim to be an
expert on these matters. But it is perhaps relevant to
mention that for many years I was director of the Runnymede
Trust, and since 1996 have been the drafting author of
several reports and papers on Islamophobia that Runnymede
gave rise to. You can find out more about the work, if you
wish, at www.insted.co.uk/islam.html.
With good wishes, and hoping you will give consideration to
the points I have made.
For further information please contact the MCB:
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 52
Tel: 020 8903 9650
Fax: 020 8903 9026