Britain’s Most Powerful Muslim Group Criticizes BBC Television Portrayal of Islam in Britain
LONDON Aug 21, 2005 — Britain’s most powerful Islamic body criticized a television documentary broadcast Sunday that accused the country’s Muslim leaders of ignoring the spread of extremism within their communities.
The British Broadcasting Corp’s Panorama program said groups affiliated with the Muslim Council of Britain, the country’s most powerful Islamic body, were peddling hard-line, intolerant religious views.
The council’s Secretary General Sir Iqbal Sacranie said the program was “deeply unfair” and was “purposefully trying to sabotage” Muslims’ progress in mainstream political participation.
The July 7 transit bombings and the failed attacks two weeks later prompted the British government to propose new anti-terrorism laws aimed at rooting out Islamic extremists. The sweeping measures, which could include deporting foreigners to countries where torture is believed to be widespread, have sparked concern from Muslims in Britain.
Sir Iqbal, who was knighted this year and is viewed as the voice of moderate Islam by the British government, said: “The MCB urges British Muslims to remain calm and vigilant in the face of recent concerted attempts being made by known hostile elements to divide them.”
Sir Iqbal also condemned suicide bombings by British Muslims anywhere and said there was no difference between the life of a Palestinian and the life of a Jew and all life was “sacred.”
The council an umbrella organization with more than 400 affiliated groups already has written to the BBC claiming the documentary has a “pro-Israeli agenda,” he said.
Separately, London’s police chief was quoted as saying that the shooting of an innocent man mistaken for a suicide bomber should not deter police in their fight against terror as he faced a growing row over the Brazilian’s death.
“I am not going to be distracted from the main job of finding the terrorists,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said, according to Sunday’s News of the World tabloid newspaper.
Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head on July 22 by police who had tailed him to a subway station the day after the failed attacks on London’s transit system.
Recently leaked documents from the official complaints commission investigation into Menezes’ killing appear to contradict original statements by police that the Brazilian had been dressed oddly and was behaving suspiciously.
The Observer newspaper on Sunday, citing police officials, said the surveillance team that tailed Menezes from his apartment building to the subway carriage did not believe he posed “an immediate threat” and wanted to detain him, but were ordered to hand over the operation to the armed squad.
Blair admitted in the interview published Sunday that it was 24 hours before he knew that Menezes was innocent. He said that when he was told, “I thought, ‘that’s dreadful, what are we going to do about that?'”
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, meanwhile, said he still had confidence in the police chief, and Downing Street echoed that support. Prescott also urged patience to allow the Independent Police Complaints Commission to finish its investigation, but would not rule out a full public inquiry.