Blair & Kelly call for REFORM of Islam

By Majed Iqbal- It was just under two months ago when Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly published an article in the New Statesmen Magazine, drafting out plans to shape a “British” version of Islam with a budget of £5 million to be ploughed into the project.

This week, Prime Minister Tony Blair joined in this debate at a conference titled “Islam and Muslims in the world today” at Cambridge University citing that “The principal purpose of this Conference is to let the authentic voices of Islam speak for themselves”.

Attended by the Grand muftis of Egypt and Bosnia as well as Pakistani PM Shaukat Aziz, Blair highlighted in his speech and in meetings with various representatives the need to reform madrassahs, boost Islamic studies with £1m funding at UK universities as a “strategic subject” playing a role “in preventing extremism” and breeding more home grown imams in an effort to engage effectively with young people born and brought up in Britain.

Ruth Kelly’s tone in the last couple of weeks has been no different. She said: “As a country we cannot afford to allow our young people to be intimidated and influenced by extremists’ messages. Madrassahs have a pivotal role to play in winning the hearts and minds and supporting young people to reject the messages of extremist groups”.

The Muslim Community throughout the UK has met this government agenda with intense scrutiny. Many believed this was a new spin by the government to shift blame for Government misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq onto the Muslim community under the auspices of tackling the threat of terrorism.

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham, was vocal in stating that the conference was “fronted” by Cambridge University , but had been organised by the government which had “deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with government policy.”

Manchester based Mohammed Jahangir, Director of the Centre for Muslim Affairs said “Tony Blair’s speech is a total misreading of the Muslim world that points the finger to Islam as a problem and refuses to acknowledge British military intervention in countries as the causes for terrorism”

This new strategy took a hammering when Ruth Kelly claimed that 60 organisations had written an open letter and “have given support to the principles underpinning our action plan.” However, many of the organisations weren’t even told that the letter was in support of the Government action plan. The majority had not even seen the text of the letter and were not even consulted before their names were included.

In addition to this, Bradford , the key area of the government in launching this project and its new Citizenship curriculum titled ‘Nasiha’ was boycotted by more than half of the Mosques and madrassah’s.

Jamal Harwood from Hizb ut Tahrir in an open letter to Kelly wrote “While it was never suggested during the Troubles in Northern Ireland that state control of Catholic churches would have ended violence, we are now being told that it is an essential element of the ‘war on terror’ for Government to force mosques, Imams and madrassahs to teach secular liberal values, encourage support for British foreign policy and seemingly create a supine, compliant Muslim community”.

Although Blair was adamant at the end of his speech saying “this Conference is not about Government lecturing the Muslim world, or our Muslim communities”, many would feel to the contrary.

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