Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), established in 1997, is an umbrella body for 500 mosques, schools and associations in Britain. It includes national, regional, local, and specialist Muslim organisations and institutions from different ethnic and sectarian backgrounds within British Islamic society. Its purpose is to increase education about Islam, and to "work for the eradication of disadvantages and forms of discrimination faced by Muslims". It has been called the "best known and most powerful" of the many organisations that have been founded in the 1990 and 2000s to represent Britain's Muslims.
- 1 History
- 2 Structure
- 3 Campaigns and programmes
- 4 Funding
- 5 Views
- 6 Support and criticism
- 7 Operation Trojan Horse
- 8 Istanbul Declaration controversy
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes and references
- 11 External links
About fifty community bodies and networks convened in Birmingham on 30 April 1994 and formed the NICMU – the National Interim Committee for Muslim Unity. This body was mandated to conduct a consultation exercise within the community to establish the need for an umbrella body and seek views on its priorities and structure. NICMU met at regular intervals and in various UK cities, including Markfield (11 May 1994), Birmingham (27 June 1994) and Leicester (19 November 1994). A working group was established to carry out a process of countrywide consultations, and a postal questionnaire was prepared and circulated to Muslim organizations, Mosques, Islamic centres and institutions. Translations were also done in Urdu and Bengali to ensure a more comprehensive reach. In addition to the questionnaire, members of the working party held meetings with the major Muslim organizations in the country Union of Muslim Organisations, Muslim Parliament, The Muslim College and influential activists. The findings of the consultations were presented to NICMU on 15 July 1995. These indicated that a large majority of British Muslims were very concerned with the lack of unity, coordination and representation and supported the establishment of an umbrella body. NICMU then formed a sub-group to prepare a draft Constitution, which reported back its recommendations at a meeting in Birmingham held on 13 January 1996. The final meeting of NICMU took place on 25 May 1996 in Bradford, at which the name ‘The Muslim Council of Britain’ was chosen (from seven proposals).
An MCB preparatory committee was then formed to publicise and invite affiliations to the MCB and prepare for an Inaugural Meeting to formally launch the organisation and its membership. The preparatory committee met on 15 June 1996 (London), 7 September 1996 (Manchester), 3 November 1996 (London), 15 March 1997 (Blackburn), 24 May 1997 (Leicester), 26 July 1997 (London), 20 September 1997 (London) and 1 November 1997 (London). Its work included a review of the Constitution and Standing Orders by the legal department of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the renting of premises for the work of the newly found organisation, the placement of advertisements in the Muslim press inviting participation from Muslim organizations and the production of an information pack. The work culminated in the inauguration of the Muslim Council of Britain at Brent Town Hall on 23 November 1997. The first General Assembly meeting was held on 1 March 1998 at which the MCB elected a Central Working Committee and office-bearers for the first time. 
The Secretary General from 1997 to 2006, Iqbal Sacranie, received a knighthood in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours for his longstanding service to the community and interfaith dialogue. From 2006, the MCB has fallen from favour with the government, who have instead sought other Muslim partners, especially among more moderate Pakistani Sufi groups.However, the body has maintained relations with governments at varying degrees, most recently, with the Labour government in 2010.
The MCB is made up of the following working committees:
|Food Standard & Chaplaincy|
|Finance and General Purpose|
|Health & Medical Issues|
|Research and Documentation|
Campaigns and programmes
- Towards Greater Understanding is a 2007 document produced by the MCB "intended to be used, as a source of reference by schools when reviewing their policies and practices in relation to meeting the needs of their South-Asian Muslim pupils". The report claims to be an attempt at education because "South-Asian Muslims are experiencing racism and Islamophobia both personally and institutionally through forms of marginalisation, discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping".
- Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB)
In 2006, MCB along with other major Muslim organisations launched "Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board" (MINAB), an independent self-regulatory body to supervise mosques, train imams, set out core standards and constitutions, and promote best practices in the British mosques. The program was commended by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.
- Islam is Peace
The MCB supported the 'Islam is Peace' advertising campaign, launched in October 2007, whose goal was to "break down barriers of suspicion and division, challenge stereotypes, combat prejudice, and offer an opportunity for strengthening the values of respect, tolerance and peaceful co-existence."
- Books For Schools
In 2004, the MCB launched a 'Books for Schools' programme to provide "high-quality Islamic resources" for mainstream primary schools in the UK. The material was put together by educators and teachers, with reference to the RE Non Statutory Framework (QCA). Resource packs include Islamic projects, objects, audio/visual items, booklets, card model kits, and posters.
- Mosque 100
This programme, started in summer 2007, targets 100 medium-sized mosques and South-Asian Muslim organisations from across the country, aiming to "empower and capacity build within a year" by providing training and access to resources. Assessing the performance of this programme will depend on a number of criteria, including "number of voluntary and community groups assisted" and the "organisation's ability to access information on specific topics."
Core funding comes from affiliation fees. The MCB has applied for and gained finance for projects devoted to the development of Muslim communities in Britain. The MCB received £150,000 of public money from the Government for a number of specific projects. These were: the MCB leadership development programme; the MCB leadership mentoring programme; MCB direct, a web portal for information on Islam and Muslims; a British citizenship programme, and the British Muslim Equality Programme.
In 2006 the MCB won a grant of £300,000 from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). According to a DFID press release, projects will include producing teaching materials for Muslim schools (known as madrasahs) and a website focusing on work to reduce poverty and links between Muslim communities in the UK and those in Nigeria, Bangladesh, and India.
The Muslim Council of Britain often issues press releases in response to political issues, especially those related to Islam or Muslims.
The Muslim Council of Britain has strongly condemned the 2003 invasion of Iraq as "a massive disconnect between public opinion – including Muslim opinion – on the one side and the political classes on the other". The group condemns terrorism by Muslims and non-Muslims alike and has urged Muslims to help in the fight against terrorism. Following allegations that police had wire-tapped a Muslim member of parliament, the Council said it was vital "to hold to account the improper behaviour of senior police officers."
In February 2006, the MCB urged MPs to vote for the Lords' amendment to the Terrorism Act 2006, which removed the 'glorification of terrorism' clause from the bill. They stated that the bill was perceived as "unfairly targeting Muslims and stifling legitimate debate". The bill was eventually passed without the amendment by 315 votes to 277.
On 3 March 2008, the MCB criticised the Foreign Secretary David Miliband's response to Israel's killing of over 100 Palestinians in Gaza as "blatantly one-sided." It said, "If we are serious about wanting peace, we must act as honest brokers, not partisan bystanders."
When schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons was jailed in Sudan for allowing her class to name a teddy bear Muhammad, the same as the Muslim prophet, the MCB condemned the incident as "a gross overreaction" and said the Sudanese authorities lacked basic common sense.
The MCB opposed the repeal of Section 28 on the grounds that presenting "homosexual practice as equivalent to marriage or in a morally neutral way is deeply offensive to Muslims" and that a repeal "undermines the institution of the family and will damage the fabric of our society".Yet, in April 2007, the Muslim Council of Britain issued a statement supporting the government legislation 'prohibiting discrimination in the provision of goods and services on grounds of sexual orientation'.
Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
When editorial cartoons of Muhammad were printed in the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005, the MCB saw them as reflecting "the emergence of an increasingly xenophobic tone being adopted towards Muslims in parts of the Western media" and argued, "We should not allow our valued freedoms in Europe to be abused by those deliberately seeking to provoke hatred and division between communities". At the same time, it said they regarded "the violent threats made against Danish and EU citizens by some groups in the Muslim world as completely unacceptable."
MCB guidance for schools says that parents of Muslim children should be allowed to withdraw their children from school activities involving mixed swimming, dance, sex and relationship education, music, drama, and figurative drawing on religious grounds. On farm visits, touching or feeding pigs should be prohibited. It also warns that pupils and parents may refuse to shake hands with the opposite sex during prize-giving ceremonies. The Daily Express newspaper referred to the publication as demanding "Taleban-style" conditions. It said music lessons were unacceptable to around 10% of Muslim pupils.
Based on information from the MCB, Stoke-on-Trent City Council issued a Ramadan guide to all schools. The document said schools should reschedule swimming lessons, sex education and exams so they are outside the month of Ramadan.
Support and criticism
- Between 2001 and 2007, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) expressed its unwillingness to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony and associated events, due to the "ongoing genocide and violation of Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere". Iqbal Sacranie stated that the MCB were "one with fellow members of the British Jewish community in their pains and anguish over this savage and shameful event in recent history." This policy was criticised by Labour MP Louise Ellman and Terry Sanderson of the British National Secular Society, among others.
- Since 2007, the MCB has called for the day to be replaced by a "Genocide Memorial Day". On 3 December 2007, the MCB voted to end the boycott. Assistant general secretary Inayat Bunglawala argued it was "inadvertently causing hurt to some in the Jewish community". It drew criticism; for example Anas al-Tikriti said: "rather than a mere remembrance of victims of one of the most heinous crimes in history", Holocaust Memorial Day has "become a political event" which "glorifies the state of Israel, turning a collective blind eye to the immeasurable suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis every single day."
- On 3 January 2006, Iqbal Sacranie told BBC Radio 4's PM programme he believes homosexuality is "not acceptable" and denounced same-sex civil partnerships as "harmful". Gay rights campaigners, such as Peter Tatchell, called for a "dialogue" between the MCB and gay organisations. In April 2007, the MCB formally declared its support for the Equality Act, which outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The journalist Brian Whitaker said: "the Muslim Council of Britain has begun to move towards accepting homosexuality".
- The opposition of the Council to the 'glorification of terrorism' clause in the Terrorism Act 2006 and to British policy in Iraq has attracted both praise and criticism. Sunny Hundal wrote in an exchange with Sir Iqbal Sacranie: "In order to defeat violent extremism, we must understand what motivates these people and what turns them into killers. What puts them in that frame of mind? The Iraq war alone is not enough." He also criticised what he saw as close links between the MCB and the Labour Party. Sacranie conceded that "propaganda literature may well play a role", but emphasised: "such propaganda can only be effective because of the conducive atmosphere we have helped create."
- The MCB has been criticised by Martin Bright, among others, for failing to be truly representative. He said, in response to an article by Madeleine Bunting: "any body that represents itself as speaking for the Muslim community must demonstrate that is entirely non-sectarian and non-factional. The MCB has consistently failed in this area and the Government should consider cutting all ties until it has thoroughly reformed itself." Madeleine Bunting disagreed, saying: "To the extent that the government over-relied on the MCB, it was due to the laziness of the government wanting only to hear one voice". She said it would be "absurd to exclude the MCB, the biggest Muslim organisation in this country and the one that has achieved the greatest degree of non-factionalism and non-sectarianism."
- Jewish community leaders in Britain have criticised government links with the MCB because of what they perceive as the group's antisemitism.
Operation Trojan Horse
A letter circulating in the city of Birmingham accused the former chair of the education committee of the Muslim Council of Britain, and others, of being involved in Islamist takeovers of schools in Birmingham, since dubbed Operation Trojan Horse. The National Association of Head Teachers has also raised concerns about similar activity in Manchester, Bradford, East London and other major cities in the UK. Tahir Alam has rejected these allegations as a 'witch hunt', a response echoed by the Muslim Council of Britain.
Operation Trojan Horse was investigated for the government by former head of counter-terrorism Peter Clarke. In his report, released in July 2014, he identified the MCB and the Association of Muslim Schools as two organisations in "an international movement to increase the role of Islam in education." He says that the two are part of a "particular hard-line strand of Sunni Islam that raises concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future." The Muslim Council of Britain has rejected this characterisation, saying that "patently absurd charge, given that we are a broad-based organisation with both Sunni and Shia traditions represented, where we have always spoken out consistently and very loudly against extremism and sectarianism, and have always spoken out for positive integration of all our communities."
It goes on to state:
We are troubled that Mr Clarke delves into intricacies of Muslim theological debate raising serious allegations against a number of national Muslim organisations including the MCB. Yet, contrary to fundamental requirement of fairness, Mr Clarke has not invited the MCB to explain its position. This is a serious failure on the part of Mr Clarke’s investigation, particularly considering the questions raised about his appointment for this task.
Istanbul Declaration controversy
In March 2009, The Observer reported that individuals including Daud Abdullah, the Deputy Secretary General of the MCB, had signed what has become known as the Istanbul Declaration (not to be confused with the 2004 Istanbul summit) in January of that year. This was in reaction to Israeli military action in Gaza of December 2008 and January 2009. As reported, the Declaration implored the "Islamic Nation" to oppose by any means all individuals deemed supportive of the "Zionist enemy" (meaning Israel). At the time of signing, political leaders, including the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown had suggested providing peacekeeping naval forces to monitor arms-smuggling between Gaza and Egypt.
Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the UK, published an open letter saying the government would have no further dealings with the MCB until it distanced itself from the declaration and Abdullah resigned. Abdullah responded in The Guardian by describing her remarks as a "misguided and ill-advised attempt to exercise control." He later said he intended to sue Blears for libel if she did not retract her letter and apologise.
The government rejected his threat.
- Islam in the United Kingdom
- Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board
- Festival of Muslim Cultures
- Islamic Society of Britain
- Muhammad Abdul Bari
Notes and references
- "MCB". MCB. Retrieved 2015-07-28.
- The Constitution of the Muslim Council of Britain
- Morey, Peter; Amina Yaqin (2011). FRAMING MUSLIMS. Harvard University Press. p. 82.
- Muslim Council of Britain. http://www.mcb.org.uk/about-mcb/faqs/. Missing or empty
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- "MCB". MCB. Retrieved 2012-08-05.
- The Guardian (PDF) (London) http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Education/documents/2007/02/20/Schoolinfoguidance.pdf. Missing or empty
- Casciani, Dominic (27 June 2006). "news.bbc.co.uk". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-18.
- Wintour, Patrick (30 October 2007). "Muslim groups draft rulebook for mosques to drive out extremists". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- MCB: "MCB is proud to support the Islam is Peace Campaign" 1 October 2007; retrieved 2 November 2013
- "Frequently Asked Questions". Muslim Council of Britain. MCB. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
- "www.mcb.org.uk" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-06-18.
- "www.foiacentre.com". Retrieved 2007-06-18.
- "www.dfid.gov.uk". Retrieved 2007-06-18.
- Muir, Hugh (4 July 2007). "Muslims must help police more, leaders urge". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- Dodd, Vikram (4 February 2008). "Inquiry is vital to retain Muslim confidence – MP". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19.
- "www.mcb.org.uk". Retrieved 2007-06-18.
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- "www.mcb.org.uk". MCB. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- Johnson, Paul; Vanderbeck, Robert M. (2014). Law, Religion and Homosexuality. Routledge. p. 182. ISBN 9780415832687.
- "MCB statement on SOR’s". Muslim Council of Britain. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
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- – "Silly Bunt", New Statesman ]
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- "Police arrest four former teaching assistants from 'Trojan Horse' school". The Guardian. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
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- "Education and Muslims: End this Witch-Hunt of British Muslims". Muslim Council of Britain website. 16 April 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-19.
- Wintour, Patrick (18 July 2014). "Trojan horse inquiry: 'A coordinated agenda to impose hardline Sunni Islam'". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
- "The Muslim Council of Britain Responds to Peter Clarke’s “Trojan Horse” Letter Report". Muslim Council of Britain. MCB. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
- Doward, Jamie (8 March 2009). "Daud Abdullah Urged to Quit Over Gaza". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "Brown in UK Navy Offer for Gaza". BBC. 17 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- Blears, Hazel (25 March 2009). "Why the Government Will Not Talk to the MCB Until Daud Abdullah Resigns". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- Abdullah, Daud (26 March 2009). "My Response to Hazel Blears". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- Hirsch, Afua (4 April 2009). "Hazel Blears Faces Libel Action for Attack on Leading Muslim". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26.
- "Rejection of Daud Abdullah's Legal Threat". 9 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-26.