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Last Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Speaking in Muslims' name

How much do leading Muslim organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) really represent what Muslims feel?

If you wish to add your view to the debate please use the form on the right of the page. The Panorama team will try to publish as many as possible but they may not be able to publish every comment.

Masud Ahmed Khan

Masud Ahmed Khan, traditional Muslim webmaster, Home Counties

Such groups represent their own small communities and are based mainly on ethnic and sectarian lines, they do not represent Muslims at large. Ask most Muslims to name the prominent members of these groups and you will find that most Muslims will not even know these groups exist.

Irfan Chishti

Irfan Chishti, Imam and RE teacher, Greater Manchester

Most of the vocal Muslim organisations are simply voices of the vocal minority. Up and down the country there are masses of traditional 'Sufi'-background Muslims that form the silent majority.

Take my own town, Rochdale - there are 14 Mosques/Islamic centres in total; but only 4 out of the 14 would be affiliates of these lead organisations. The rest belong to traditional Islam - the kind that expresses love at the birth of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), gratitude for centuries of Islamic heritage and pays homage to thousands of saints and scholars throughout history.

Unfortunately as of yet this majority still has not been able to make its voice heard.

Dilwar Hussein

Dilwar Hussein, Researcher, Islamic Foundation, Leicester

The MAB is a single affiliate organisation of the MCB, while the MCB is an umbrella body composed of, and elected by, hundreds of affiliates making it the largest Muslim umbrella group in the UK.

In Sunni Islam, the role of Imams is very different to the role played by Clergy in Christianity. The MCB is therefore not a 'House of Bishops' in Anglican terms, but is something of a 'broad church'! No other group in the UK has this diversity.

Any Muslim organisation is free to affiliate to the MCB, influence its policies, participate in elections and put forward candidates for election to office. It is therefore as representative as can be, given the relatively poor infrastructure of the Muslim community. But it does not represent every voice.

This is not surprising and is probably an unrealistic expectation; after all, by way of analogy, no single political party or even elected government can represent every voice in the nation.

Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob, Political activist, Birmingham

Both organisations between them tend to accurately reflect general Muslim opinion on a range of issues. The community is not a monolithic bloc however.

It contains many different Muslim communities within it and as a result there will always be a need to engage directly with 'grass-root' groups to get detailed and accurate feedback - eg. to understand better various ethnic groups or issues around women and youth.

There are times when it is desirable and possible for an umbrella organisation to speak on behalf of a large number of Muslims, but it is impractical at the moment to expect one organisation to speak as the sole authority of the Muslim community on all issues.

Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui, Head of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow

The problem with responses from umbrella organisations and others is that they don't have any official status nor do they represent anyone other than themselves.

They mostly peddle a traditional line of thinking so that they can claim political and social legitimacy and never wish to confront the tensions and challenges surrounding faith and modernity.

They often do little more than make capital out of the more obviously sensitive issues ranging from the hejab (Muslim women's headscarf) to Palestine.

Asim Siddiqui

Asim Siddiqui, Chair, The City Circle, London

Muslims should not confine themselves to Muslim-only groups. Young confident British Muslims must join mainstream civic and human rights groups whose loyalty is to make Britain a better place for all.

The older generation who arrived from overseas did not just bring with them their culture but also much political baggage. Groups and mosques were built along the same tribal lines they left behind back home.

All this must change as a grassroots British Islam emerges that shows compassion and concern for all.

Hasan As-Sumaalee, Salafi Muslim teacher, Cardiff

I know they do not speak for us. They are self-contradictory (sometimes praising individuals who glorify suicide bombing in Palestine) and weak in Islamic knowledge.

They should be asked about the likes of Yusuf Al-Qardawi, who justifies suicide and killing of women and civilians in Palestine, Syed Qutb and Hasan Al-Bannah.

YOUR VIEWS

the problem is most British people assume that Muslims are one group. But sadly they not, in the same way a French Christian and a German Christian are poles apart. There is so much ethnic divide it's hard for any organisation to speak on behalf of all Muslims.
Naveed Khan, Manchester

If MCB does not represent the views of mainstream Muslims in Britain, then who does. Is it Hizbut Tahrir or Al Muhajirun? MCB is an umbrella organisation of more than 400 diverse organisations and mosques in Britain. So far this is most broad-based Muslim organisation in Britain. If some Muslims have not heard about it, I question their concern for the Muslim community in Britain. The Muslims who question the legitimacy of MCB who do they represent? As for MAB, which is an affiliate of MCB, thousands of Muslims responded to their call for the anti-war movement.
Dilowar Khan, London, UK

They represent all Muslims. If they ever got the upper hand, then the more moderate Muslims will fall into place. And even more moderate Muslims would be to afraid to speak out.
Mark, UK

If someone was purporting to speak for me, and was saying things that I didn't agree with, I would seek to put the record straight as soon as possible.

The voice of the peaceful and law-abiding muslims needs to be heard loud and clear. The consequences of inaction are far worse.
Keith Roberts, london

The MCB and the MAB are not "leading Muslim organisations". They just have a large media presence. The Muslim Community is split into Sunni and the other sects, mainly, Wahhabi, Deobandhi, Tablighi and so on.

The Sunnis have little media presence, despite being the majority. The MAB and MCB do not really represent the Muslim Communities. Nearly all Imams are far more knowledgable and would provide an elequent display in representing Muslims in the media, if they were ever given the chance rather than depending on loonies from extreme groups and the parrots from the MAB/MCB.
Mohammed Asif Haji, Manchester, UK

It is a simple fact that no single group respresents the majority of the Muslim community in Britain. MCB is an umbrella organisation consisting of many self-governed interest groups, based on ethnic and racial lines. Most of these never hold elections internally and do not allow debate within them.

Until Muslims develop community bodies where true elections and open debate is allowed it is unlikely any single group either MAB or MCB will ever represent the majority of Muslims in the UK. Muslims worldwide are under enormous pressure to reform and it is important that Muslims themselves take the lead in this and do not let non-believers reform modern Islam to suit there own interests.

It's time for the Muslim community in UK to realise that the current leadership of the community has failed to develop itself over the last 50 years or so. It is vital for Muslim survival, as a community, to develop role models that can inspire the youth and also face the great challenges Muslims face both in the UK and worldwide.
Z Ali, Bury, Lancashire

It is a sensible idea to have such bodies as the MCB to reflect and represent the views of British Muslims. However, there are many different groups of Muslims, who have differing views and interpretations of Islam, in the same way the Christian faith has Catholics, Protestants and many others. As a result one organisation will find it impossible to represent all under the umbrella of Islam.
Zumi Farooq, Ilford, Essex UK

MAB clearly has managed to regularly represent what the average muslim is feeling, judging from the many thousands who attend their rallies. However they are not a body purporting to be the sole, or even main, organisation representing the varying strains of Islamic opinion in the UK.

The MCB is the main representative umbrella body for the muslims in the UK. It is not a "Wahabi" or "Saudi" organisation and has representatives from all Muslim backgrounds, including "Sufis", "Sunnis," "Shias". In this regard I believe the programme potrayed an erroneous picture of the MCB, suggesting that it was some sort of exclusively "Wahabi" organisation.

Muslims, like some of your commentators who have been duped in to this view, should look up the full list of MCB affiliates. They will find that it is far more inclusive than was suggested by the programme. Finally you will find that the view expressed by these organisations supporting the Palestinian resistance is not only the mainstream opinion amongst UK muslims but also amongst the UK population as a whole.
Azhar Qayum, Bham UK

Speaking as someone who originated from South Asia, organisations like the MCB and MAB don't represent Muslims who may only go to mosque twice a year, don't pray regularly, and all their friends are secular.

These organisations don't represent the Sufi tradition which is the majority in the UK. They appear to be an embarassing element, who are media savvy.

We need them to regularly condemn suicide bombings. You get the feeling their heart isn't in it.

They don't encourage the involvement of Muslims, no matter what their background in British life. We could learn a lot from our other South Asian compatriots like Sikhs, and Hindus.
Tariq, Reading, UK



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