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On 17th January 2015, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  the Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP sent a letter to around 1000 mosques – click this link: LetterfromEricPicklestoMosques_Jan2015

Writing to Mr Pickles on 19th January, Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain  noted,

“We feel your letter to Muslims, at this critical time, could have been worded differently. This week Muslims have experienced heightened tension when Mosques and Muslim institutions have been attacked and sent hate mail. Faith communities – Muslim, Jewish, Christian and others, are all playing their part in pushing back on this and fostering unity and hope across communities.  I take the point that your letter was written in good faith, and I agree with your assertion that British values are indeed Islamic values. However, we do take issue with the insinuation that extremism takes place at mosques, and that Muslims have not done enough to challenge the terrorism that took place in our name. This is why we responded to the media, and an assertion in some quarters that you were somehow endorsing the idea that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society. We reject such notions. We also reject suggestions that Muslims must go out of their way to prove their loyalty to this country of ours. That is why I applaud your response and that of our Home Secretary when Mr Nigel Farage suggested that multiculturalism was to blame for terrorism and that there was a fifth column in this country. ” click here for full letter.

A number of mosques receiving the letter have also responded, including

From Southampton Medina Mosque Trust

From Manchester Council of Mosques

From Bradford Council of Mosques

From Lewisham Islamic Centre

From Federation of Redbrige Muslim Organisations

The response from political circles has been muted, though Baroness Warsi noted

…So while I welcome Eric’s attempt to reach out, the reality is that if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then the chances of success are limited. A letter out of the blue to a mosque that is potentially affiliated to an organisation like the Muslim Council of Britain – with whom the government has refused to engage – creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic. It makes it appear as if the government is neither listening nor genuine in its intentions. And it provokes a negative response, irrespective of the true motive. click here

 

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