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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Muslim and Christians share values - Blair
Tony Blair with the British Muslim Council
Mr Blair has moved to reassure the UK's Muslims
Attacks on British Muslims in the wake of the terrorist assaults on the US will not tolerated, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said.

Speaking after talks with members of the Muslim Council of Britain, Mr Blair said that Islam was a "tolerant, peaceful" religion.


We are united in this campaign in fighting against terrorism

Yousuf Bhailok
Of those behind the terror attacks on the US Mr Blair said: "We must not honour them with any misguided religious justification."

And he condemned as "despicable" those attacks which had taken place on Muslims in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

"There is a minority who are only too happy to use recent events as a convenient cover for racism," he said.

"Such acts and such attitudes have no proper place in our country."

United

The general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, Yousuf Bhailok, said British people regardless of religion were "united" in fighting against terrorism.

"The prime minister has been most reassuring in quite clearly distinguishing between Islam and the terrorists and I think the media and all press also need to be more forceful in getting this message across.

"We are united in this campaign in fighting against terrorism.

"In this community, relations between communities should not be affected."

The prime minister refused to be drawn directly about Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's controversial remarks about the "superiority" of Western civilisation.

But he said: "Sometimes we forget that there is a common heritage, too, in many of our faiths and I think if we concentrate on that we would see how much we have to gain by stressing the shared values of our faiths."

There have been reports of racist assaults and attacks on mosques, thought to be linked to anger over the recent atrocities in the US.

Wording concerns

Mr Blair said that blaming ordinary Muslims for the terrorist actions was the same as blaming ordinary Christians for terrorist acts in Northern Ireland.

Earlier council member Iqbal Sacranie told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had particular concerns over the way the words "Islamic" or "Islam" and "terrorism" were being automatically linked by some journalists and public figures.

"We've really got no problem with the word 'terrorist' being applied to people who commit these acts of atrocity and criminal activities - that's fine and we need to pursue that.

"But there is concern in the community and we are seeing some of the backlash that is taking place - attacks on places of worship and individual Muslims although they have nothing to do with the sort of attacks that took place (in America)."

He also expressed the hope that Mr Blair would be a "calming influence" on some of the more hawkish US attitudes being expressed recently.

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The BBC's Niall Dickson
"The hope is that community relations will not be affected"
Iqbal Sacranie, Muslim Council of Great Britain
"Individual Muslims have been attacked"

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