"We seek to represent British Muslims in areas where there is deprivation, disadvantage and discrimination," Dr. Daud Abdullah, Deputy Secretary General of the MCB, told IslamOnline.net in an exclusive interview.
"Unfortunately, the Muslim community is the most marginalized sector of the British society in terms of employment, in terms of education, in terms of housing and in terms of health. We are at the bottom of the social ladder."
He asserted that the main objective of the council is to see how we can remove these barriers and to ensure that the conditions of Muslims in the United Kingdom are improved.
"This can not be reversed by setting at the sidelines, opting out of the process. All of these disadvantages can only be reversed if we engage and if we make our presence felt and use our votes to influence policies and decision making."
Dr. Abdullah underlined that his organization also strives to encourage cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims within the British society.
The MCB is a self-funded voluntary organization that has within its folds about 450 affiliates from across the United Kingdom that fall in three categories.
A national affiliate has branches across the country such as the The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).
Regional bodies include the Lancashire Council of Mosques, which is confined to that region, while local affiliates include mosques.
"Theses affiliates come from various backgrounds some are religious, others are research institutes, others are relief institutions and some are professional associations," said Dr. Abdullah.
The MCB is a constituted body and elections are held every two years.
Constitutionally national affiliates are given two votes in the elections while regional and local affiliates are given one because of their numerical strength only.
The MCB encourages Muslims to vote, enduring rebuke for a minority of Muslims who claim elections are un-Islamic.
The MCB leader rubbished recent criticism by the opposition Conservative Party that his group was pursuing a separatist agenda.
"The claim that we are separatists is laughable… This was quite unjustified, it was not substantiated by any evidence," he insisted.
Dr. Abdullah underlined that one of the incumbent members of parliament was a former chair of one of the MCB committees.
"Mr. Sadeq Khan, the youngest member of parliament, resigned his position within the council, contested his seat and won it.
"This is the clearest indication of the length we are prepared to go to engage in the political process and to set example for young people to follow," he noted.
"We in the council have argued very hard in the community for our young people, for Muslims to participate in the elections.
On the occasion of every election we bring together the candidates and allow them to debate among Muslim audiences to answer their questions so that we can make up our minds as a community where we want to register our votes," recalled the MCB leader.
"We believe that there are instruments of democracy, there are processes and we ought to use it because no one is going to deliver our needs for us if we do not advocate for it, if we do not work for it."
He said Muslims, estimated at more than 2 million, should have at least forty parliamentarians.
"We have something like four or five. This is not enough."
Dr. Abdullah dismissed as "ill-advised" a recent speech given by Conservative Party leader David Cameron, though he doubted the speech was actually written by him.
"The allegation, the comparison of the MCB and the British National Party was outrageous because the party is a new fascist organization," he insisted.
"If you equate the MCB with that group then it seems that he was in a way buying into the argument that there was something called Islamic fascism which is objectionable and disgraceful."
He argued that the statement underscored how very little the Conservative Party had changed over the years, noting that several MCB members are also members in the opposition party.
"He tried to portray that there is this wave of Muslim immigrants into the United Kingdom, threatening the status quo.
"Muslims will work harder to build a prosperous, peaceful and secure Britain because these Muslims are not refugees these are people who were born in the United Kingdom," said Abdullah.
The reality is that most of the immigrants who have come to the United Kingdom in recent years are from east Europe and not from Muslim countries."
The Muslim leader believes a lot of the speech was pandering into the public fear.
"This is what we call the politics of fear employed by both the Conservative and Labour parties rather than the politics of hope that we believe should be championed at this critical time."
According to Dr. Abdullah, behind the scenes, people from the Conservative Party are reaching out to the MCB and making contacts to see how the damage can be contained.
"The door is still open and we are ready to engage."
The Muslim leader said his organization is usually accused of focusing too much on foreign policy and of not representing the diverse Muslim minority.
"The MCB lays no claim to be the only representative body of British Muslim. We say that we are arguably the largest representative body but we are not the only one."
The council has within its fold the largest national Islamic bodies in the UK such as the FSIS, Islamic Forum Europe, Islamic Society of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain and the United Kingdom Islamic Mission.
"We can only represent those who want to be part of the MCB and how they represent in turn in their respective regions."
The MCB leader pointed out that his organization comes under heavy fire every year for not attending Holocaust Memorial Day since its inception five years ago.
"We have every year suffered immense attack in the media because of this stand but it is one which we believe is a principled one, which we have articulated again and against but for political reasons people try to dismiss it as trivial."
He said the issue was debated against this year in the central committee, the key decision-making body in the council, and a vote was taken and it was agreed to abstain from participation.
"This is our position and it has not changed."
The MCB recognizes that its relations with the government is not what it used to be and that the honeymoon is almost over.
"There has been some unease in the relationship, some tension not only because of 7/7 but also because of the conduct of the war in Iraq and UK foreign policy generally," said Dr. Abdullah.
He said the country's foreign policy is being seen as "hostile" to Muslims and Muslim countries and in some cases not in line with international law.
He recalled London's reluctance to interfere and push for an immediate ceasefire when Israel was killing innocent Lebanese and turning their hard-won infrastructure to ruins last year.
"Our government, unfortunately, did not do the right thing when this was happening. The council vocally laid down its position was," said the MCB leader.
"We thought it was disgraceful that our government should sit back while the infrastructure of another country should be dismantled. When we protested our government said 'you try to blackmail us. You are just three percent of the population. You want to dictate foreign policy'."
Dr. Abdullah insisted that what the MCB did was exercise the right granted to every citizen of the United Kingdom.
"We think it is part of the democratic process and that's the reason we laid down our views on paper and in public on these matters."
The MCB leader believes his group is paying political price for its stances.
"Yes, I would say this but this is the irony of the situation because we believe that the alternative to political violence is political discourse.
"However, there has been an attempt to shut out groups from the political process," he added.
"There are groups which came into existence in the last three or four years. They are national bodies. They came into existence with the support of the government and their profile has been raised in the media and in the public domain."
Dr. Abdullah argues that the discourse from these organizations is very often in support of the government policies.
"They have not been critical of issues we think affect British Muslims, particularly in areas of legislation as an example where the government in the aftermath of the 7/7 actually thought to close down some of the mosques on the pretext that they were supporting or harboring terrorists."
However, the MCB holds nothing against such groups.
"There is no hostility between us. There is no enmity and there is no confrontation between us. We respect them and continue to work for the common good."
Similarly, despite a chilly relation with the government, the MCB remains open for cooperation and dialogue.
"We have a strategy within the council that is one of engagement. We realize we will not agree on everything with the government so we will cooperate with them on the things we agree upon and those things we do not agree upon such as the foreign policy we will try to resolve it through dialogue and consultation."
The MCB leader insists that his umbrella organization has done a lot for the sizable Muslim minority, which many sections of the national media just choose to ignore.
"Islamic banking is not practiced any where else in Europe but Britain. This has been achieved primarily by the efforts of the council," Dr. Abdullah contended.
He recalled that the MCB organized an international conference on finance and Islamic trade last year that was attended by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.
Brown, the heir apparent to Prime Minister Tony Blair, has promised to turn London into an international getaway for Islamic banking.
"This is the positive work that we have been doing and unfortunately, sections in the media and those who engage in pressure politics would seek to ignore," said Abdullah.
He insisted that the MCB's record is available for people to review and see what it has done on behalf of British Muslims.
"Prior to 2002 there was no question in the census on religion. We lobbied the government of a question on religion and as a result of that we knew how many Muslims were in the country, whether they were distributed, what their conditions are, what their capabilities are and on the basis of that data we can go forward."
The MCB leader believes Muslims in the coming years will become more aware of their circumstances and will turn within themselves to analyze the causes of the present condition.
They will look at their faith and they will draw more inspiration from their faith in the future. As a result, they will become more organized and more equipped to meet the challenges that confront them.
"They will continue to engage with their counterparts in society. They will work harder to build a prosperous, peaceful and secure Britain because these Muslims are not refugees these are people who were born in the United Kingdom. This is their home, they are not going any where."
islamonline.netGüncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16