Muslims laud Tony Blair’s stand on faith schools but concerned over rise in Islamophobia

20th May 2002

The British community has noted with great relief Prime Minister Tony Blair not only re-asserting the principle underlying the idea of faith schools, but also hitting the nail right on its head when he said in his Newsnight interview the other day (16 May 2002) that it would be wrong to “tell the Muslim community that they are the one community that can’t have [faith] schools”.

Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said in a letter to the Prime Minister: “you not only affirmed a very important principle, you also recognised that the controversy about faith schools which has been revived recently basically reflected a desire in certain circles to derail your agenda of national inclusion and integration. >From this recognition of the underlying phenomenon, we expect”, added Iqbal Sacranie, “the government to deal with the policy implications of a situation in which the community felt excluded yet at the same time found itself accused of isolationism”.

A day earlier an MCB delegation had also met Home Secretary David Blunkett to outline a range of the community’s concerns from so-called “isolationationism” to unwillingness to integrate, forced marriages and asylum-seekers etc which were not Muslim-exclusive yet these were being used to stigmatise the entire community.

Iqbal Sacranie described the meeting as good and positive. “We found in David Blunkett a perceptive and listening Home Secretary and we are now looking forward to addressing the serious problems arising from the absence of protection against religious discrimination and incitement to religious hatred”.