Downing Street is facing calls from its advisers to abolish Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day, established by Tony Blair four years ago, because it is offensive to Muslims.
The draft proposals have been produced by committees made up of Muslims who were appointed to advise the Prime Minister and other ministers on extremism.
Members of the committees are asking that Holocaust Day be replaced with Genocide Day to recognise the murders of members of their own faith in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia.
The Queen is patron of the charity that organises the event, marked each year on Jan 27. The Home Office contributes £500,000 a year to it.
A member of one of the committees said the name Holocaust Day gave the impression that “western lives have more value than non-western lives”.
The proposal had been drawn up to change that impression, said the committee member. “One way of doing that is if the Government were to sponsor a national Genocide Memorial Day,” he added.
“The very name Holocaust Memorial Day sounds too exclusive to many young Muslims. It sends out the wrong signals: that the lives of [some] people are to be remembered more than others. It is a grievance that extremists are able to exploit.”
The plan has been backed by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. “The message of the Holocaust was ‘never again’ and for that message to have practical effect on the world community it has to be inclusive,” he said.
“We can never have double standards in terms of human life. Muslims feel hurt and excluded that their lives are not equally valuable to those lives lost in the Holocaust time.”
Ibrahim Hewitt, chairman of the charity Interpal, which aims to provide relief and development aid to the poor and needy of Palestine, said: “There are 500 Palestinian towns and villages that have been wiped out over the years. That’s pretty genocidal to me.”
Government sources say they will argue that a ban is unjustified because the group, which is proscribed in much of the Middle East, neither advocates nor perpetrates violence in Britain.
The recommendation was drawn up by committees which are advising the Government on a range of issues, including imams and mosques, Islamophobia and policing.
Mike Whine, a director of the British Board of Deputies, said: “Of course we will oppose this move. The whole point is to remember the darkest day of modern history.” Louise Ellman, Labour MP and a trustee of the Holocaust Memorial, was also critical of the committees’ stance. “These Muslim groups should stop trying to evade the enormity of the Holocaust,” she said.
The committees will finalise their recommendations today and submit them to Mr Blair and Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, on Sept 22.
The Home Office said yesterday that it did not plan to act on the advice.
Holocaust Day was set up after a long campaign by Jews to create a memorial for the six million Jews who lost their lives.