17 June 1998
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, met a delegation from the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) led by its Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie. The delegation raised the concern that the new racial offences provisions of the Crime and Disorder bill would not protect the Muslim community. The Home Secretary acknowledged this concern and agreed to urgently consider whether the wording of the Bill could be amended accordingly. He stressed that, separately and in any event, guidance would be issued stressing the need for criminal justice agencies to take account of the need to protect Muslims in enforcing the new provisions.
Mr Sacranie pointed out that the concern of the Muslim community was shared by all other religious communities and race bodies such as the CRE, the 1990 and Runnymede Trusts, Bandung Parliamentary Institute, Society of Black Lawyers and more than a hundred MP’s from all political parties, who have expressed their support for the amendment to the bill.
The MCB delegation also sought support for the inclusion in the national census of a question relating to religious affiliation, which is also supported by other religious groups. Mr Straw agreed that this was an important issue but noted that the structure of the census questionnaire was still under discussion within the Government.
The MCB delegation raised the need for legal protection against religious discrimination. Other religious and secular organisations including the CRE and the 1990 and Runnymede Trusts support this. The Home Secretary said that the government accepted that this was an issue and was currently engaged in research aimed at defining the problem. He made it clear that the MCB would be consulted on the outcome of the research and their views would be welcomed.
The meeting also discussed the need to stop using the term Islamic Fundamentalist to describe terrorists since this was offensive to Muslims. The Home Secretary acknowledged this and said that the Government had been working during its EU presidency to raise awareness of such community relations issues amongst its European counterparts.
The issues of the honours system and public appointments were also raised. The Home Secretary made clear that the government was committed to increasing representation in these areas and encouraged members of the Muslim community to put forward nominations.
Mr Sacranie said “the meeting was constructive and encouraging and I am hopeful that appropriate action will be taken by the Secretary of State to ensure that the Muslim community is not further marginalised but can continue to play its responsible role for the betterment of society”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The Members of the delegation were:
Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain
Sher Azam; Bradford Council of Mosques.
Dr Hamid Al-Majid; Director General, Islamic Cultural Centre.
Dr Imam Abduljalil Sajid; Director,Sussex Muslim Society.
Ms Adeela Rashid; Muslim Women’s Helpline.
Dr Zakuallah Khan; Chairman, Pakistan Welfare Association.
Iqbal Asaria, Member, Shia Ithna-Asheri Community of Middlesex (SICM)
2. Guidance on the Crime and Disorder Bills provisions will be issued to Criminal Justice agencies including the CPS, police and courts