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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 11:16 GMT
UK Muslims tackle religious ignorance
The UK Prime Minister met Mr Arafat during a whirl wind tour of the Middle East.
Tony Blair with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza.
Tony Blair has signed a pledge to strengthen religious tolerance in Britain to mark the start of Islam Awareness Week.

The event, described by organisers as a "bridge building exercise", hopes to address the threat posed by Islamophobia in the UK - a feeling that has heightened since the terror attacks of 11 September.

It comes as a survey in The Sunday Times suggested that four out of every 10 British Muslims (40%) believed that Osama Bin Laden was justified in mounting his war against the US.

But Sher Khan, national co-ordinator for the Islam Awareness Week, denounced the poll as "unscientific".


It's a week in which we hope to make the Muslim community more accessible to ordinary members of the public

Sher Khan
"When people say they support Bin Laden, what they really mean is his rhetoric about supporting Palestine," Mr Khan told BBC News Online.

"The Muslim community has always been worried about the state terrorism against the Palestinian people. That doesn't mean that somehow we oppose the British people.

"But we don't feel it is in the interests of Britain to carry out this particular war."

Smoke poured from New York's  World Trade Centre before it collapsed on 11 September.
World Trade Centre attacked

Mr Khan said he hoped the Islamic Awareness Week, which features events including exhibitions, food festivals and invitations to non-Muslims to have a meal in the home of believers, would dispel some of the anti-Islam sentiment.

"It's a week in which we hope to make the Muslim community more accessible to ordinary members of the public," he said.

"There are people who regard their next door Muslim as a potential terrorist. That is not good for building community relations."

Munir Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Britain, said the overwhelming majority of Muslims reacted with horror to the events of 11 September.

'Peace loving'

"Never has it been so important to hold an awareness-raising week that can refute the myths and misunderstandings that surround the Islamic faith and demonstrate to the British public that we are a peace-loving community.

"Muslims form an integral part of UK society."


There are people who regard their next door Muslim as a potential terrorist. That is not good for building community relations

Sher Khan
Signatories to the pledge include Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

They promise to work towards better community relations between faith groups and avoid using language of an inflammatory or discriminatory nature.

Almost two million Muslims live in Britain.

The Islamic Society of Britain has been organising Islam Awareness Week since1994 to create a greater public understanding of the religion and to tackle misconceptions and prejudices about Muslim people.

For the first time this year, the charity will present a commendation for promoting better public understanding of Islam.

This year's recipients will be the producers of the BBC's Islam season Ruth Pitt and Aqeel Ahmed.


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See also:

06 Nov 00 | UK Politics
Muslims seek to counter prejudice
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Blair seeks return to Mid-East peace
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