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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 09:39 GMT 10:39 UK
Blair to meet Muslim leaders
Alvia Mosque in Bolton after attack
A number of mosques have been attacked
The Prime Minister has invited members of the Muslim Council of Britain to Downing Street to discuss fears that any international action against Islamic terrorists could lead to a backlash against Muslims living here.

Mr Blair will stress that any attacks on ordinary Muslims will not be tolerated.

All of the political parties have sought to underline the difference between supporting action against Islamic terrorism and condemning attacks on ordinary Muslims.

But the prime minister's guests will be emphasising their concerns over some of the language being used by politicians and the media.

There have been reports of racist assaults and attacks on mosques, thought to be linked to anger over the recent atrocities in the US.

Mr Blair will tell council members he respects Islam as a tolerant and peace-loving religion.

Language concerns

The council is secular but Downing Street says Tony Blair has indicated he also wants to meet religious leaders.

Council member Iqbal Sacranie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had particular concerns over the way the words "Islamic" or "Islam" and "terrorism" were being automatically linked by some journalists and public figures.

"We've really got no problem with the word 'terrorist' being applied to people who commit these acts of atrocity and criminal activities - that's fine and we need to pursue that.

"But there is concern in the community and we are seeing some of the backlash that is taking place - attacks on places of worship and individual Muslims although they have nothing to do with the sort of attacks that took place (in America)."

He also expressed hopes Mr Blair would be a "calming influence" on some of the more hawkish US attitudes being expressed recently.

Party hostilities

Meanwhile, the de facto suspension of normal political hostilities will extend to the party conferences.

Charles Kennedy will use his speech to the Liberal Democrats to reaffirm support for the government's action against terrorism.

But he will insist international co-operation against terrorism makes the case for Britain taking an active role in Europe.

His speech will be seen as a veiled attack on the position of new Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith and others who oppose further European integration.

The BBC's Norman Smith
"The PM's meeting is designed to reinforce the government's message"
Iqbal Sacranie, Muslim Council of Great Britain
"Individual Muslims have been attacked"

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