SINCE I did not see Sunday night's BBC Panorama report on leadership in Muslim communities in Britain I cannot judge whether the excited calls from the Muslim Council of Great Britain for a public apology for its representation in the programme is justified or not. However, a quick glance at the Council's website suggests that it is inclined to protest excessively at any reference in the media which does not accord with its own estimation of its standing and worth. In the first page of the site I saw references that “the Muslim Council rejects.....has condemned....utterly condemns......accuses” various sources, one of them the Liberal Democrats, that have questioned its position or policy on Muslims in Britain. In Sunday's Observer there was an angry article by the Council's Secretary-General, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, about an article in the previous Sunday's paper that had raised a number of questions about the Council. The Observer criticised the Council for not participating in Holocaust Memorial Day which led Sir Iqbal to say, perhaps understandably, that “there is indeed an 'Israel test' to which British Muslims are being subjected. So, it can be assumed that Muslim Council is a rather sensitive organisation, especially in current conditions in Britain. It describes itself as “A step towards greater consultation, co-operation and co-ordination of Muslim affairs”. Few would argue that such activities are needed and should be welcomed. One of the problems facing politicians and others in Britain wanting to consult with representative bodies of the Muslim community is that they are hard to find and their authenticity difficult to judge. Islam has no hierarchy of the kind we are familiar with in the Catholic Church or the Church of England; there is no equivalent of the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury. One can therefore understand why the Muslim Council cautiously uses the phrase ”A step towards greater consultation...” to describe itself. One of the accusations made in the Panorama programme was that the Council is “mainly composed of Indo-Pakistanis” and is too influenced by ideology from Pakistan. On the other hand it is apparently viewed by the British government as the voice of moderate Islam and for this reason, no doubt, Sir Iqbal was knighted earlier this year.


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