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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Catholic 'sympathy' for Muslims
Cardinal Murphy O'Connor
The cardinal's words were welcomed by the Muslim Council of Britain
The leader of Catholics in England and Wales has called on Christians to sympathise with oppressed Muslims in a bid to combat Islamic extremists.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said defending religious freedom was crucial in ensuring newly assimilated groups felt welcome in society.

The cardinal also said "the alienation" of Muslim youth needed to be addressed.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it "warmly" welcomed the sentiments expressed by the cardinal.

The Cardinal said British Christians must feel the plight of Bosnian Muslims as keenly as British Muslims feel the plight of Christians under Sharia law - Islamic law - in Nigeria.

We warmly welcome the cardinal's remarks, which are indicative of the humanity behind the man
Inayat Bunglawala
Muslim Council of Britain

In his speech, to a gathering in Lyon, France, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said the 7 July bombers may have felt a sense of alienation due to being "left hanging" between their Asian ancestry and British upbringing.

"Rejecting both, they fell vulnerable to a version of Arabic Islam which sees fit to interpret the Koran in isolation from the interpretative communities and legislative traditions of the faith," said the cardinal.

"This ideology fuelled their fury at injustice and offered them a way of overcoming it - one that they were persuaded to believe could please God by sacrificing themselves and others in the process."

MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala told BBC News: "We warmly welcome the cardinal's remarks, which are indicative of the humanity behind the man, but also the compassionate nature of the Christian faith itself.

Genocide memorial

"It is true that in recent years there has been increasing concerns amongst sections of the Muslim community that we in the West perhaps do not value the lives of all people equally.

"We sometimes seem to regard the lives of westerners as being more valuable than the lives of people in Rwanda or Chechnya."

He added that this issue had long been a concern to the MCB, prompting it to call for a genocide memorial day in this country over the last six years.

Last week Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor expressed concern that the new Iraqi constitution appears to open the door to Sharia law in the country.

He said the 800,000 Christians in Iraq were concerned that their religious rights were not explicitly enshrined in the constitution.


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