DAVID Cameron has rejected criticism by some Muslims of a letter sent to mosques in England urging them to do more to root out extremists and prevent young people being radicalised.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it wanted Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to clarify the request - and asked if, like “members of the far right”, he was suggesting that Islam is inherently apart from British society.
In the letter sent to more than 1,000 Islamic leaders, Mr Pickles and communities minister Lord Ahmad stressed that he was “proud” of the way Muslims in Britain had responded to the Paris terror attacks but added that there was “more work to do”.
“You, as faith leaders, are in a unique position in our society. You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility, in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity,” the ministers wrote.
“We believe together we have an opportunity to demonstrate the true nature of British Islam today. There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith and proud of your country. We know that acts of extremism are not representative of Islam, but we need to show what is.”
MCB deputy secretary-general Harun Khan said: “We will be writing to Mr Eric Pickles to ask that he clarifies his request to Muslims to ‘explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity’.
“Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?”
But Mr Cameron insisted that the letter was “reasonable, sensible and moderate” and suggested that anyone opposing it “really has a problem”.
Answering questions after a speech in Ipswich, the Prime Minister said: “I think it is absolutely right to write this letter, to say that we all have a responsibility to fight extremism.
“Anyone who reads this letter - and I’ve read the letter - will see that what he is saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution to our country, that what is happening in terms of extremist terror has nothing to do with the true religion of Islam. It’s being perverted by a minority who have been radicalised.
“But everyone needs to help with dealing with this problem of radicalisation.
“Anyone, frankly, reading this letter, who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem. I think it is the most reasonable, sensible, moderate letter that Eric could possibly have written.
“Frankly, all of us have a responsibility to try to confront this radicalisation and make sure that we stop young people being drawn into this poisonous fanatical death cult that a very small minority of people have created.”