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 vision statement is 'empowering the Muslim community towards achieving a just, cohesive and successful British society.' 
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 Views
- 4 Controversies
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
An MCB preparatory committee was formed to publicise and invite affiliations to the MCB and prepare for an Inaugural Meeting to 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.
In 2010 MCB expressed sympathy towards radical preacher Zakir Naik who was banned from entering the UK due to his support of terrorist activities. The MCB stated that Dr Naik was mainstream in his views.
The Muslim Council of Britain is a democratic body whose members include over 500 mosques, schools and Islamic associations. As set out in its Constitution, the decision-making and ruling body of the Muslim Council of Britain is its General Assembly that must meet at least once a year. The Assembly is composed of delegates from affiliated bodies. Every two-years the General Assembly elects the Secretary General, Deputy Secretary General, as well as the National Council .
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.
Campaigns and Projects
- 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".
- Visit My Mosque day: Facilitated by the MCB first in 2005, this initiative encourages mosques across the UK to hold open days at the same time. In 2016 over 80 mosques took part, including mosques in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In February 2018 over 200 mosques take part in holding an open day for their neighbours on the same day.
The Muslim Council of Britain 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 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."
Following the fatal bombing of the Manchester Arena in 2017, MCB Secretary General Harun Khan condemned the attack, saying "This is horrific, this is criminal. May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next."
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".
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."
Historically, MCB has spoken out against sectarianism. In 2013, the council signed an intra-faith unity declaration between a number of Islamic schools and branches within both Sunni and Shia denominations of Islam. In April 2016, following the "religiously prejudiced" murder of a British Ahmadi Muslim, Asad Shah, the MCB denounced any form of murder, but also said nobody should be "forced" to accept the Ahmadiyya Community as part of the wider Muslim community.
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."
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'.
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".
Schools and education
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.
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."
Operation Trojan Horse controversy
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 subsequently raised concerns about similar activity in Manchester, Bradford, East London and other major cities in the UK. Tahir Alam rejected these allegations as a 'witch hunt', a response that was 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 said that the two were 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 rejected this as a "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." The MCB added that "contrary to fundamental requirement of fairness, Mr Clarke has not invited the MCB to explain its position".
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.
Islamophobia in the Conservative Party
The Muslim Council of Britain has repeatedly demanded an investigation in Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. In June 2018, the organisation said there are now "more than weekly incidents" involving Conservative candidates and representatives. In an open letter, the organisation told chairman Brandon Lewis he must "ensure racists and bigots have no place" in the party. The Conservative Muslim Forum accused the Conservative Party of a failure to take action on Islamophobia and joined calls for an independent inquiry. In addition, 350 mosques and 11 umbrella organisations across the UK have urged the Conservatives to launch internal inquiry into Islamophobia claims. In July, the organisation repeated its call for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia and accused the Conservatives of turning blind eye to Islamophobia claims.
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