Muslim leader concerned about UK climate of fear

By staff writers
November 14, 2007

The head of the Muslim Council of Britain has condemned what he describes as "the climate of fear" and prejudice experienced by many Muslims in the UK, and has called on the authorities to stamp out prejudice and promote fair treatment.

Muhammad Abdul Bari said that in certain respect the atmosphere of fear and suspicion surrounding the Muslim community was similar to that effecting the Jews in Germany during the 1930s - a remark which has provoked controversy among those who say that it is an over-dramatic and inappropriate parallel.

Nevertheless, monitoring groups and police community advisers are concerned about the existence, and in many cases growth, of anti-Muslim feeling in Britain, partly related to accusations against a small minority supporting terror.

The government and MI5's policy of rhetoric about the threat from al Qaeda is alienating many Muslims and undermining social cohesion, the MCB chief says.

He declares: "The air is thick with suspicion and unease. It is not good for the Muslim community, it is not good for society."

Mr Bari told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: "Every society has to be really careful so the situation doesn't lead us to a time when people's minds can be poisoned as they were in the 1930s." he said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

The new head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, said last week militant Islamists were growing in number and were targeting children as young as 15 years.

Mr Bari said he thought Evans' speech was "creating a scare in the community and wider society".

"It probably helps some people who try to recruit the young to terrorism," he added. "There is a disproportionate amount of discussion surrounding us.

"If your community is perceived in a very negative manner, and poll after poll says that we are alienated, then Muslims begin to feel very vulnerable."

The MCB is an umbrella organisation with 500 affiliates. It was established with government support, but in recent months relations with the authorities have grown strained.

Some say it has done a good job in bringing Mulsims together, others that it is unrepresentative and harbours some people with extreme views. The MCB says the criticsm is ill-iformed and unfair.

It has called for improved ways of working with the police to try and prevent terrorist attacks. Its hardline members have been criticised by some, including the Conservative Party, of harbouring and even promoting militant views.

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