Muslim organisations in Britain backed David Cameron’s call to expose the brutality of Islamic State as part of a bid to prevent the radicalisation of young Britons.
But concern was expressed that the Prime Minister’s call to promote and “enforce” British values may fuel prejudice and suspicion against Muslims.
The Muslim Council of Britain said it supported “sound, evidence-based” measures that confront terrorism effectively and agreed that the conduct and values of IS – also known as Isil, Isis or Daesh – were “abhorrent”.
MCB secretary general Dr Shuja Shafi said: “We agree with the Prime Minister that we must de-glamorise the Daesh cause. It is neither revolutionary, nor cool, and it certainly is against the basic teachings of Islam.”
But he added: “We worry, however, that these latest suggestions will set new litmus tests which may brand us all as extremists, even though we uphold and celebrate the rule of law, democracy and rights for all.
David Cameron stretches the definition of “extreme” ideologies http://t.co/LN1QkNLPq2— The Economist (@TheEconomist) July 20, 2015
“Challenging extremist ideology is what we all want, but we need to define tightly and closely what extremism is rather than perpetuate a deep misunderstanding of Islam and rhetoric which inevitably facilitates extremists to thrive.
“We have heard for too long now that Muslim communities either condone, or are not doing enough to condemn, the extremists who act in their name. Yet, poll after poll indicates that this is not the case.”
Arzu Merali of the Islamic Human Rights Commission said: “Cameron’s claims simply reinforce the now widely-held prejudice that Muslim politics and practice are violently inimical to the society we live in.
“In fact, policy after policy from this and previous governments have forced Muslims into silence over valid claims whilst lauding a fictional idea of European supremacy over them and other beleaguered minorities. It is time for a push back against this divisive and sinister narrative.”
A spokesman for the Hizb-ut-Tahrir group, which campaigns for a caliphate, said: “Like his predecessors, Cameron conflates legitimate religious and political views that Muslims hold with the chaos that has been created in Iraq and Syria. His recipe for dealing with ’extremism’ is a dog’s breakfast.
“We hold no brief for Isis – who are a militia, lack Islamic legitimacy for any Caliphate or Islamic state and for many of their actions. However, Cameron’s back-of-an-envelope proposal for carpet bombing regions of Iraq and Syria are as credible as Isis’s Caliphate and Blair’s war in Iraq, and will do little to solve the region’s problems.”
The spokesman added: “You cannot launch a PR campaign to promote ‘British values’ whilst simultaneously using civil, legal and security agencies to forcibly convert people to your ’creed’ because you have failed to convince them intellectually.”
Shahid Mursaleen, a spokesman of Minhaj-ul-Quran UK, which works to promote inter-faith harmony, said: “We support the Prime Minister that we must de-glamorise Isil terrorist narratives and condemn Isil unequivocally. Isil has distorted Islamic teachings and has no legitimacy or authority whatsoever.”
Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said: “A key challenge for our society is ensuring integration and good relations between all communities, including Muslims. This is particularly true for the Jewish community, who has been at the sharp end of extremism and have the most to gain from robust measures that promote security.
“These will be my key priorities over my term of office and I sincerely welcome the resolve and ambition that the Prime Minister has shown today.”
Rachel Logan, legal programme director with human rights campaigners Amnesty International UK, said: “It’s obviously extremely worrying that British people have travelled to Syria to join a murderous group like Isis, and the Government should be thinking about this difficult issue.
“But it would be wrong to criminalise speeches that do not amount to advocacy of hatred constituting incitement – such as strong criticism of the UK’s foreign policy in the Middle East – which should be allowed in any free society with a plurality of views.”