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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 13:26 GMT
Muslims warn of 'immense hatred' of UK
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

Muslim Association of Britain posters at February's anti-war demonstration
Muslim protests: Thousands demonstrated in February
War in Iraq will generate "immense hatred" towards the UK from across the Muslim world if Prime Minister Tony Blair aligns his government with American goals, Muslim leaders are warning.

As the prospects for war grow, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said the people it represented feared war would do huge damage to the UK's international reputation and make the government's efforts to secure British borders all the more difficult.

The MCB, joined by MP Mohammed Sarwar, is debating the expected war at an open meeting in Westminster, a week after Muslim leaders met the prime minister to press their case.

Tony Blair
War will make our country the focus of anger in the Muslim world - far from improving our national security, it will worsen it
Inayat Bunglawala, MCB
The last-ditch effort comes as Muslim anti-war protests continue, including a planned protest at Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's constituency surgery.

Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the MCB, said: "It now looks like we are going to go to war regardless of a second United Nations Security Council resolution.

"Muslims believe our government is aligning itself entirely with the United States administration which is viewed with such suspicion within the Muslim world."

Mr Bunglawala said many Muslims were unconvinced by claims that a war would be fought for the humanitarian aim of freeing Iraqi people from a tyrannical regime.

"Muslims see three motives for war," said Mr Bunglawala. "Many believe this is the start of changing the map of the Middle East, a second Sykes-Picot agreement which will only benefit America.

"People believe that the US wants to control oil and consolidate the position of Israel as the regional superpower.

Sykes-Picot Agreement
Carved up Middle East in 1916
Ended Ottoman Empire
Regarded by many in the Arab world as a betrayal
"Far from securing a better future, these aims are throwing the world into disarray."

In September last year, the MCB's secretary-general, Iqbal Sacranie, said he did not want resentment of America to poison the Muslim world's general respect for the UK.

But Mr Bunglawala said this was now happening. "War will make our country the focus of anger in the Muslim world.

"Far from improving out national security, it will worsen it."

Community pressure

Muslim leaders met Tony Blair on 6 March to warn him of growing resentment over Iraq.

At the meeting, they urged the prime minister to "return from the brink".

Britain's Muslims would almost certainly become victims as communities would suffer both racist attacks and a rise in agitation, they warned.

Thousands of young British Muslims joined February's million-strong anti-war demonstration in London.

The Muslim News newspaper reports that among other protests planned, there will be a demonstration by Blackburn Muslims at Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's regular constituency surgery on Friday.

Muslims comprise approximately 20 per cent of his constituents and are largely Labour supporters.

Another march planned for Saturday will include members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the radical Islamic party that opposes integration with mainstream politics.

"We have been encouraging all Muslims to participate in the debate in politics and the media," said Mr Bunglawala.

"If the younger generations are not listened to, then it can only alienate more of them into not participating, and embolden more radical groups."

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