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Islamic preachers should speak English – Blunkett

The Independent, UK
Oct. 31, 2003
Nigel Morri, Home Affairs Correspondent
news.independent.co.uk

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Friday October 31, 2003

David Blunkett made a provocative call last night for more Islamic preachers to learn English to help combat the “clash of cultures” suffered by young British Muslims

The Home Secretary argued it was crucial, in the interest of race relations, for teachers and community leaders who shape youngsters’ attitudes to help them identify with the country.

Mr Blunkett said that 60 per cent of Muslim preachers in France did not speak that country’s language and warned Britain should not “go down the same road”.

Last year he provoked anger when he called for Asian parents to speak English at home to prevent “schizophrenia” between the generations.

The Home Secretary returned to a similar theme in the annual Heslington lecture at York University on religion’s place in modern society.

He said: “It is a worrying trend that young, second-generation British Muslims are more likely than their parents to feel they have to choose between feeling part of the UK and feeling part of their faith – when in fact they should feel part of wider, overlapping communities.

“The issue here is identity – whether people identify with the actual world in which they live, or with another world they are taught about, which offers the absolute certainties which day-to-day interaction can never do. We need to join those within faith communities who are trying to resist this tendency, working together to isolate extremism.”

He said: “Teaching in religious communities whether evangelical, Christian, or Islam, is rarely spoken about, but it is vital.

“This is not just a problem for Britain; our European partners are wrestling with the same questions. In France, which has five million Muslims, a real debate is under way. At the moment in France, 60 per cent of Muslim preachers do not speak French. We should be working together with the Muslim community in Britain to ensure we are not going down the same road.

“It is crucial those who have this key role in shaping the world view of our young people should be in a position to help them relate to the world in which they live, rather than turning them away from it.

“This is absolutely central for the development of the Muslim community itself and for the life chances of young Muslims, but also has a wider impact on social cohesion and race relations.”

Mr Blunkett insisted that he was not calling on faith groups to become involved in politics. “I simply want all of us to recognise that in an increasingly complex, connected world we all share the challenge to find solutions to our common problems,” he said.

He praised Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh communities around Britain who have supported local schemes, particularly mosques in Bradford which run creche facilities for all local people, including Jewish residents.

* Mr Blunkett accuses Tory peers opposed to the Government’s criminal justice reforms, including restricting the right to jury trial, of acting out of cynicism.

Writing in the left-wing newspaper Tribune today, he concedes that sections of the flagship Criminal Justice and Sentencing Bill will be defeated over the next three weeks.

“Contrary to what the world will be told, this is nothing to do with civil liberties, or Custer’s last stand on behalf of jury service, but actually a piece of cynical manipulation of the majority the Lords can muster against the Labour Government.”

He says that most Tory peers do not have “the first idea” about the reality of life in inner cities or on housing estates.

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