MUSLIM leaders in Bradford have called on a key Government minister to apologise over a letter written to mosques in England urging them to do more to root out extremists and prevent young people being radicalised.
Mohammed Rafiq Sehgal, president of the Bradford Council for Mosques, has called the letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles "highly objectionable on several grounds" and said it "blames and targets the Muslim community".
He said: “The statement incorrectly implies that Muslims are not part of the British society and are at unease with it, hence, they need to do more to be inclusive.
"We ask why the letter has only been sent to the Muslim leaders and not more widely to the leadership of other faiths and non-faith communities. This clearly suggests that in Mr Pickles' views Muslims are solely to be blamed for terrorists’ activities. This is typical of the thinking among the Government ministers and the security agencies.
"Mr Eric Pickles and his partner in crime Lord Ahmad are guilty of overlooking the fact that for British Muslims Britain is their home and take the safety of their ‘home’ very seriously. Therefore, for senior politicians to continuously pick on Muslims and blame them for the activities of terrorists who do not care for the faith of their victims, is unjustified and grossly out of context.
"We ask Mr Pickles to publicly apologise to the Muslim community for bringing this peaceful section of the British society into disrepute. "Blaming Muslims may win Mr Pickles and his party some support from the right wing voters but it does not help good community relations."
Dr Mohammed Iqbal, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association for Bradford North, also told the Telegraph & Argus: "I am a very firm believer that we should root out extremism wherever it is and I think we have a big part to play in that. But the timing of this letter is counter productive. It's going to create tensions which don't need to be created.
"Extremism is being driven by the internet and by developments totally outside this county. This letter puts immense pressure on the Muslim community."
Today, the Prime Minister sprang to Mr Pickles's defence.
Speaking at an event in Ipswich, David Cameron Mr Pickles had been "absolutely right" to write the letter and to make the point that everyone had a duty to fight extremism.
"Anyone, frankly, reading this letter, who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem. I think it is the most reasonable, sensible, moderate letter that Eric could possibly have written.
"Frankly, all of us have a responsibility to try to confront this radicalisation and make sure that we stop young people being drawn into this poisonous fanatical death cult that a very small minority of people have created."
Shipley MP Philip Davies also supported Mr Pickles.
“Clearly there is a problem with Islamic extremism, and the whole of the Muslim community need to play a full part in prevent this radicalisation from taking place and ensuring everyone integrates fully into a British way of life and British values," he said.
"The Government cannot do that alone and it is right for Eric Pickles to reach out to the Muslim community in this way to make sure that everyone works together to root out the cancer of terrorism, intolerance and Islamic extremism in this country which is clearly a threat to our country."
And Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP for Keighley, urged leaders of all religions to play their part in tackling extremism.
He said: “The letter is a strong defence of Islam. Every day, mosques and other faith institutions across the country are providing help for those in need, and acting as a centre for our communities. It is these positive contributions that are the true messages of faith and it is these contributions that need to be promoted. But we must also work together to tackle extremism wherever it is found, and leaders of all religions must play their part and be seen to be playing their part.”
Bradford West Respect MP George Galloway said: "While it might be well-intentioned it is actually crass and offensive and helps to further stigmatise and vilify Muslims.
"Would Eric Pickles send such a letter to all churches warning them to guard against EDL extremists and racists, or to synagogues over the bombings and killings of innocent civilians in Gaza? Of course he wouldn't.
"Muslims don't need to patronised and told that killing innocent people is wrong, they know it, as do those of all faiths and none.
"He should be looking at the policies of his Government and preceding ones which have caused murder, mayhem and created distress and hatred among 1.6 billion Muslims, in this country and worldwide, and address these rather than lecturing them about what is right and wrong."
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