David Cameron says Muslim leaders have a problem

Matthew Champion@matthewchampion
Monday 19 January 2015 13:00
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David Cameron has hit back at Muslim leaders who have claimed the government has adopted the premise of the far-right argument against Islam.

The prime minister defended a letter sent by communities secretary Eric Pickles and minister Lord Ahmad to 1,000 mosques asking them to do more to root out extremism.

The letter, which you can read in full here, says the response by British Muslims to the Paris terror attacks had made the government "proud" but that there was "more work to do":

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.

We believe together we have an opportunity to demonstrate the true nature of British Islam today. There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country. We know that acts of extremism are not representative of Islam, but we need to show what is.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), however, was unhappy with the letter. It's deputy secretary-general Harun Khan said:

Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?

The chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, sided with the MCB, saying it was wrong to suggest the Muslim community within Britain could contain its own radicals.

The truth is that Islamism like all modern political movements is a global phenomenon transmitted by the internet, transmitted by social media. I would not be surprised if the Muslim community did not say you're asking of us something that is not actually under our control.

But the prime minister, speaking to journalists after an event in Ipswich, said anyone who had a problem with the letter, "really has a problem" themselves.

I think it is absolutely right to write this letter, to say that we all have a responsibility to fight extremism.

Anyone who reads this letter - and I've read the letter - will see that what he is saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution to our country, that what is happening in terms of extremist terror has nothing to do with the true religion of Islam. It's being perverted by a minority who have been radicalised.

But everyone needs to help with dealing with this problem of radicalisation.

Anyone, frankly, reading this letter, who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem. I think it is the most reasonable, sensible, moderate letter that Eric could possibly have written.

Frankly, all of us have a responsibility to try to confront this radicalisation and make sure that we stop young people being drawn into this poisonous fanatical death cult that a very small minority of people have created.

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