(by Patrick Goodenough, Aug. 15, 2005, CNSNews.com) – Britain’s leading Islamic umbrella group, under closer scrutiny since last month’s London bombings, went onto the defensive Sunday after critics called into question its image of moderation.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) challenged media reports which said the group was far from moderate, but in fact “has its origins in the extreme orthodox politics in Pakistan.”
The Observer newspaper said MCB leaders and some of its 400 affiliates had links with “conservative Islamist movements,” especially Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan’s leading Islamist party.
Jamaat-e-Islami is one of six radical parties in a coalition opposed to President Pervez Musharraf and highly critical of his cooperation with the U.S. in anti-terror operations in the region. Its leaders have voiced strong support for al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The group was founded by Maulana Maududi, an Islamic scholar who has been described as one of the fathers of the resurgence in fundamentalist Islam last century.
The Observer said MCB president Iqbal Sacranie and media spokesman Inayat Bunglawala had both expressed admiration for Maududi, who died in 1979.
The report also said one MCB affiliates, the Islamic Foundation, had been founded by a senior figure in Jamaat-e-Islami.
The paper said the BBC television network’s flagship Panorama program would soon broadcast a documentary critical of the MCB. It said the program takes issue with Sacranie for boycotting Britain’s Holocaust Memorial Day this year, a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz 60 years ago; attending a memorial service for the slain leader of the Hamas terrorist group, Ahmed Yassin; and what it called an “equivocal” position on Palestinian suicide bombers.
The MCB called the reports “an extraordinary attack” and blamed “pro-Israel” media and a reporter with an “Islamophobic agenda.”
“Fortunately, the MCB derives its mandate from British Muslim organizations and not from pro-Israeli sections of the media,” it said in a statement which made it clear its criticisms was aimed both at the Observer and the BBC.
The BBC program, due to be screened next week, “can only undermine the solidarity that has been achieved in our country between various communities since the July 7 atrocities,” it said.
Four British Muslims, three of Pakistani origin, blew up bombs on three subway trains and a bus on July 7, killing 52 people.
The MCB, which roundly condemned the bombings, is the main Muslim body in the country, and is frequently involved in government initiatives aimed at the 1.6 million-strong community.
Sacranie, who was knighted this year and officially has the title “Sir,” is arguably the country’s highest-profile Muslim leader.
Since the bombings, he and the MCB have drawn more attention, and also more criticism.
Salman Rushdie, the British author accused of blasphemy and sentenced to death by Iran for his book The Satanic Verses, noted in an op-ed piece last week that Sacranie had once said that death was perhaps “too easy” for Rushdie.
“If Sir Iqbal Sacranie is the best [Prime Minister Tony] Blair can offer in the way of a good Muslim, we have a problem,” Rushdie wrote.
“Blair’s decision to knight him and treat him as the acceptable face of ‘moderate,’ ‘traditional’ Islam is either a sign of his government’s penchant for religious appeasement or a demonstration of how limited Blair’s options really are,” he said.
Although the BBC Panorama program’s airing is still a week off, the MCB last week lashed out at the network, saying that while interviewing Sacranie a BBC reporter had demonstrated a “pro-Israel” agenda.
Nearly all the questions he had asked Sacranie had been related to Israel in some way, the MCB complained, saying they covered such subjects as the Holocaust memorial issue, Yassin, and MCB affiliates’ views on “Zionism and the struggle for Palestinian rights.”
“It appears that the Panorama team is more interested in furthering a pro-Israeli agenda than assessing the work of Muslim organizations in the U.K.”
In a letter sent to the BBC director-general, and since made public by the council, it said: “The BBC should not allow itself to be used by the highly placed supporters of Israel in the British media to make political capital out of the July 7 atrocities in London.”
Ironically, the BBC’s coverage of the Middle East has frequently come under fire – but from the Israeli government and others accusing the broadcaster of an anti-Israel bias.
In its response to the reports, the MCB also said there was nothing wrong with Jamaat-e-Islami, “a perfectly legitimate and democratic party.”
And on the decision to boycott the Holocaust event, the MCB said it wanted a more inclusive “Genocide Memorial Day” to be commemorated.
At the time the event was held, last January, the council said it was not attending because the memorial “excludes and ignores ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world and in the occupied territories of Palestine.”
Reprinted here with permission from CNSNews.com. Visit the website at www.cnsnews.com.
1. Define resurgence from paragraph 5. Use your own dictionary or go to yahoo.com and type in “define resurgence”.
2. Who is Maulana Maududi? What do you know about Jamaat-e-Islami? (paragraphs 3, 4, 5)
3. What is the MCB? What relation do Iqbal Sacranie and Inayat Bunglawala have to the MCB? Why does the British newspaper the Observer question the MCB’s claim that they are a moderate group? (paragraphs 6 & 7)
For the complete Observer article, click here.
4. Define equivocal. In an upcoming documentary about the MCB, what 3 reasons does the BBC give to support its belief that the MCB is not a moderate group?
5. The MCB reacts to British media accusations by making what accusation against the British media? Why is their accusation ironic? Do you believe the MCB has a legitimate complaint? Explain your answer.
6. The MCB said they boycotted the Holocaust Memorial Day because it was not inclusive and should instead be a “Genocide Memorial Day”. What do you think of this response?
To read about the Holocaust, click here.