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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 April, 2004, 01:24 GMT 02:24 UK
Lawyers warns of 'dark age'
Gareth Peirce
Ms Peirce said Muslims in the UK suffer much 'hatred and venom'
A human rights lawyer who represented Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzem Begg has won an award for her work.

Gareth Peirce was honoured at the Muslim News Awards in London for championing a Muslim cause.

During her acceptance speech Ms Pierce - best known for her work with the Guildford Four - expressed anger over treatment of Muslims.

She claimed there was an unprecedented amount of "hatred and venom" being directed against the Muslim community.

Ms Peirce collected the Annemarie Schimmel Award at the ceremony which emphasises the important role Muslims play in the British community.

Dark age

She said: "We have lost our way in this country. We have entered a new dark age of injustice and it is frightening that we are overwhelmed by it."

The awards covered a range of fields including excellence in the arts, education, citizenship, and community relations.

Among the recipients were Charles Le Gai, a writer, diplomat and scholar, who won the Creativity in Islamic Thought category.

The St Mary The Virgin Primary School in Butetown, Cardiff was a joint winner of the excellence in education category for promoting religious and cultural tolerance.

And the excellence in media award was won by Sandra Herbert, a religious producer at BBC Radio Leicester.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was unable to attend, but he praised Muslim communities in a video message broadcast to the ceremony.

He said: "The awards give valuable recognition to those who win them and they help to highlight the vitality and the achievement to be found within our Muslim communities.

"It is more important than ever before that we in government build a close relationship and dialogue with Muslim communities. "

Profile: Gareth Peirce
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