Page last updated at 18:58 GMT, Friday, 15 January 2010

Ties restored with Muslim Council after Gaza row

Israeli airstrike on Gaza
Hundreds of Palestinians were killed during the three-week offensive

The government has restored its formal relationship with the Muslim Council of Britain, suspended last year in a row over Israel's offensive in Gaza.

Ties had been suspended after a senior council member signed the Istanbul Declaration on the hostilities.

At the time, the government said the document advocated attacks on the UK military and on Jews around the world.

The council had now "confirmed its unwavering support for British troops", a government statement said.

Formal ties were suspended in March last year after MCB deputy secretary-general Dr Daud Abdullah was one of 90 Muslim leaders who signed the Istanbul Declaration.

The document was in response to Israel's three-week offensive in Gaza, in December and January, but Dr Abdullah denied the government's interpretation of it.

He said the declaration did not represent an attack on Jewish people and that he did not call for or support attacks on British troops anywhere in the world.

The MCB has stated its categorical opposition to attacks on British defence interests and confirmed its unwavering support for British troops
Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman

Announcing the restoration of formal ties, a Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said the MCB would again "contribute to ongoing dialogue with government as one amongst a wide range of Muslim organisations".

He said the organisation had made a commitment "to examine their internal processes and ensure that the personal actions of all members, including senior leaders, remain true to the organisation's agreed policies, avoiding a repeat of the issues which arose after one member signed the Istanbul Declaration".

"The MCB has stated its categorical opposition to attacks on British defence interests and confirmed its unwavering support for British troops across the world.

"It has also made clear that it stands firmly against anti-Semitism and other forms of racism."

The spokesman said the the government would "closely monitor how the internal processes progress over the coming months".

'Sinful aggression'

The government had been particularly concerned with the following articles of the Istanbul Declaration:

  • "The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing a substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity."
  • "The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters, claiming to control the borders and prevent the smuggling of arms to Gaza, as in effect a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation, that must be rejected and fought by all means and ways."

At the time, Dr Abdullah said: "I do not advocate attacks on any religious community, including Jewish communities, and I do not advocate attacks on British military forces.

"What I do advocate is the right of all British citizens to agree or disagree with government policy and to use all lawful means to democratically make their voices heard.

"A government which tries to suppress discussion of such views ... will have little moral support, not only in the Muslim community, but in wider society."

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