12th June 1998
A delegation from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) met the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader and spokesman for Home Affairs in the House of Commons, Alan Beith MP, and Richard Allen MP, in the House of Commons yesterday, to seek support for an amendment to the above bill. Such action would ensure that Muslims are also protected against attacks which are “racially motivated” in a similar way as Jews and Sikhs.
The Secretary General of the MCB, Iqbal Sacranie, in introducing the organisation, pointing out that it represents over 250 Muslim organisations spread throughout the United Kingdom. He emphasised that the amendment to the Bill has received support from many non-Muslim organisations and churches including the Commission for Racial Equality, the 1990 Trust, the Runnymede Trust and the Society of Black Lawyers.
It was pointed out that while the Bill covers crimes that are “racially aggravated” it gives no protection to some racial groups who are identified as religious communities. The law would, therefore, be ineffective against attacks on Mosques whilst covering Sikh Temples and Jewish Synagogues. The proposed amendment would be of benefit not only to Muslims but people of all religions.
The Government’s argument is that accepting the amendment would dilute the content and the impact of the Bill. However, by concentrating solely on “racially aggravated” crimes, the Government would be sending signals to criminals that crimes motivated by religious hatred against those who are not a racial group are less serious.
The Liberal Democrat MP’s agreed with the MCBs view. Alan Beith said we give our categorical support for this amendment and shall raise the issue again to ensure an amendment is tabled when the bill is returned to the House for the Report Stage.
The Muslim Council of Britain has written to all Members of Parliament seeking their support for this important amendment. A significant number, from all political parties, have responded favourably. Two weeks ago a delegation from the MCB met members of the shadow cabinet who have also given their full backing to the proposed amendment.
The delegation was led by Iqbal Sacranie and included Ms.Basma El-Shayyal member of the Central Working Committee and General Secretary of FOSIS (the Federation of Students Islamic Societies), Ms Adeela Rashid from the Muslim Women’s Helpline, Akbar Ali, convenor of the membership sub-committee and Omar Farooq a member of the MCB Legal Affairs Task Group and the Islamic Society of Britain.