Friday 28th September 2001
The Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Tony Blair yesterday invited members of the British Muslim community to a meeting at 10 Downing Street. Representing the Muslim Council of Britain were the Secretary General Yousuf Bhailok, Iqbal Sacranie, Tanzeem Wasti and Dr Fatma Amer.
The meeting offered the Muslim delegation the opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister its concerns over sentiments prevailing in the British Muslim community as a result of the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11th.
The MCB Secretary General expressed his appreciation of the Prime Minister’s distinction between those that committed the atrocity and the wider Muslim community. The MCB welcomed the Prime Minister’s comment that the acts were not the work of “Islamic terrorists” or “Muslim terrorists”, but the work of “terrorists pure and simple”. Responding to the PM’s remarks Secretary General Yousuf Bhailok said the PM had been “most reassuring in quite clearly distinguishing between Islam and terrorists” and urged the media to also be more forceful in getting this message across.
Other points raised during the meeting were the emerging refugee crisis in Afghanistan and the need to secure justice and not vengeance in the capturing of those accused of having carried out the terrorist attack. The delegation insisted that the plight of other innocent civilians not be forgotten and that the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan be immediately addressed. The PM assured the delegation that the British government was not oblivious to the plight of Afghan refugees and was taking the lead in the building of a “humanitarian coalition” to deal with the growing number of displaced persons. He added that the ‘war’ was not against the Afghan people.
On the importance of justice and not vengeance the delegation urged that any action by governments be grounded in international legality and the due process of law.
On the state of community relations in the UK and the growing incidence of Islamophobia, the MCB Secretary General Yousuf Bhailok insisted that community relations in Britain not be affected. The PM denounced those engaged in abusive behaviour as harbouring “acts and attitudes [that] have no proper place in our country”. The MCB Secretary General added that there was no contradiction between a Muslim identity and British citizenship.
The MCB Secretary General Yousuf Bhailok again reiterated Muslims’ condemnation of the attacks on the US stating that “we are all united in the campaign against terrorism”.