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Muslims left to face hatred

In a tumultuous week when a fringe Christian pastor in Florida made international headlines by saying he would be burning the sacred scripture of over 1.7 billion Muslims, where were the loud denunciations from any prominent British religious figure?

The deafening silence from the heads of other faiths in the UK sends a chilling message to Britain's Muslims: that they are fair game in an incendiary post 11 September world.

Traditionalist Muslims have often been their own worst enemy, but progressive groups like the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford have promoted universal religious solidarity. Among other initiatives, we had previously denounced the burning of Salman Rushdie's book; protested the destruction of the Buddhist sculptures at Bamiyan; rejected medieval sharia law for Britain; denounced sexist discrimination, justified the right of believers to apostatise and defended persecuted non-Muslims in Pakistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

Since Pope Benedict has voiced his disapproval at Pastor Jones's publicity stunt, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, his chief representative in England and Wales, has said nothing tangible. Similarly, all that Islamic organisations heard from the Anglican Church last week were annual greetings from Rowan Williams marking the end of Ramadan, with just a single sentence about the projected desecration of the Qur'an. Otherwise, not a full media response strongly deploring the pastor's plans from him or his inter-religious secretary, nor from the Chief Rabbi or other leaders of religious Britain.

While it is right that UK Muslims must root out extremism in their midst, surely other faiths should do the same with their own fundamentalists and radicals?

Dr T Hargey, Imam and Chairman, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford

Belfast Telegraph


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