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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 August, 2003, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
Thousands attend Muslim conference
Thousands of people attended a major conference organised by an controversial Islamic group.

About 7,000 delegates met at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena on Sunday for debates led by Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a political group otherwise known as the Islamic Liberation Party.

The organisation has been banned in some countries including Egypt where three Britons are awaiting trial for allegedly promoting the group.

However, Birmingham's only Muslim MP likened the group to the British National Party (BNP) and said he fears that the organisation is misleading young people.

'Fringe element'

"They should be treated in the same way as the BNP, as a fringe element in our society," said Khalid Mahmood, MP for Birmingham Perry Barr.

"They are misguiding a lot of young people who have not developed their own religious beliefs and only represent a small percentage of Muslim opinion in the UK."

Hizb ut-Tahrir was established in Jerusalem in 1953 with the aim of creating a single Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.

Leaders of Birmingham Central Mosque have also condemned Hizb ut-Tahrir as an extreme minority group and criticised the event.

The conference featured debates on Muslim roles in British society under the banner "British or Muslim?".

'Intelligent work'

Dr Imran Waheed, of the Hizb ut-Tahrir, said: "The theme is British or Muslim, looking at the issue of Western values or Islamic values.

"We are examining case studies, such as buying a house, marriage, relationships between men and women and how would a Muslim with a British ideology or an Islamic ideology would view it.

"We say that it is a forum for all of the Muslim community and we would have liked to Mr Mahmood to have attended."

Dr Waheed also rejected claims that his group is linked to extremist terrorists.

"We would say that this is not the case, the party uses purely intellectual and intelligent work to achieve its aims," he said.

"Our activities are not of that type."


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