September 15, 2000
The Secretary General of The Muslim Council of Britain Mr Yousuf Bhailok said that he deeply regretted the Islamophobic remarks made by an Italian Cardinal who is widely thought of as a possible successor to the Pope. Speaking in response to Cardinal Giacomo Biffi’s outspoken comments (La Repubblica, 14th Sept) that Muslims should be barred from entering Italy and that “either Europe returns to Christianity or becomes Muslim”, Yousuf Bhailok slammed what he calls “a provocative and insensitive outburst” and believes that other faiths should respond likewise.
Mr Bhailok urges the Pope and Catholic Church leadership to distance themselves from such unhelpful remarks and calls for mutual respect and tolerance.
In using words such as “Muslim invasion” and “foreign cultures”, the right-wing Cardinal stirred up memories of the Crusades, something he apparently has no qualms about. The MCB believes such remarks hinder inter-faith relations and can be damaging especially in the light of subsequent revelations in a Charity Commission Report that two supposedly Catholic charities in Britain have links to a neo-Nazi political organisation and, pointedly, an Italian fascist.
Calling on leaders of other faiths, in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi, and the Archbishop of Westminster, to join him in condemning the Cardinal. Mr. Bhailok said that people of faith have a duty to work together to fight all kinds of extremism and other social evils. “Cardinal Biffi’s remarks,” he said, “are an incitement to religious hatred.” Muslims, he added, would not be alone in suffering the consequences of such controversial views if they are allowed to go unanswered, and a swift response from other faith groups is essential for the preservation of good community relations.