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Thursday, 4 October, 2001, 07:56 GMT 08:56 UK
Thatcher comments 'encourage' racism
Baroness Thatcher
Baroness Thatcher has been roundly condemned
Baroness Thatcher has been accused of encouraging racists after saying that she "had not heard enough condemnation from Muslim priests" of the US terror attacks.

The former British prime minister's comments were roundly condemned by British Muslim leaders and politicans of all sides in the UK.


Frankly, I find it difficult to find words to describe my horror at what I saw

Michael Heseltine
Former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine, asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the comments, said: "Frankly, I find it difficult to find words to describe my horror at what I saw."

The comments "could only encourage" those with racist tendencies to act, said Mr Heseltine, whose leadership challenge led to Mrs Thatcher's replacement as Tory leader by John Major.

Her comments come at an acutely sensitive time as Prime Minister Tony Blair prepares to embark on a new round of diplomatic talks to bolster support for the international coalition against terrorism.

Muslim leaders said her remarks were ill-informed and inflammatory.


I have not heard enough condemnation from Muslim priests

Baroness Thatcher
In an interview with the Times newspaper, Baroness Thatcher said: "The people who brought down those (World Trade Center) towers were Muslims and Muslims must stand up and say that is not the way of Islam.

"Passengers on those planes were told that they were going to die and there were children on board.

"They must say that is disgraceful.

"I have not heard enough condemnation from Muslim priests."

'Sad and surprised'

Iqbal Sacrani of the Muslim Council of Great Britain condemned Baroness Thatcher's opinions as "outrageous" and pointed out that Muslim leaders had been among the first to condemn the attacks.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith said British Muslims deplored the attacks
Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said: "I am very sad and surprised that she has said this sort of thing.

"Coming from a person like Baroness Thatcher it is very hurtful.

"People need to know that out of over 6,000 people who died in this terrible incident, over 1,500 of them were Muslims.

"The Muslim community has had to suffer twice - once when someone dear to them died, the second time when people say things like this."

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said he was very surprised by Baroness Thatcher's remarks.

"I think Mrs Thatcher is as out of touch today as she was when she brought in the poll tax," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"She obviously has not been listening to the media or reading the press. This has been widely condemned by all of the community and particularly by the Muslim scholars."

A Conservative Party spokeswoman said that Iain Duncan Smith had made it clear that all moderate Muslims and all British people had utterly condemned the atrocities in America.


I think what's important is it's clear that the major political parties in this country are both against terrorism and pro-Muslim

Oliver Letwin
shadow home secretary
Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin told BBC News the Muslims he had met had roundly condemned the attacks.

"Iain Duncan Smith and I actually met most of the most senior Muslim leaders a few days ago and they were pretty categorical, I have to say, in their condemnation of terrorism."

He said Muslims had much in common with the Conservatives, putting a similar emphasis on the importance of family life and respect for the law.

"I think what's important is it's clear that the major political parties in this country are both against terrorism and pro-Muslim. We need to make sure they are protected."

Government ministers have been alarmed by an upsurge in the incidence of racist attacks on Muslims in Britain since 11 September.

Home Secretary David Blunkett announced at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on Wednesday that he would be introducing legislation to make incitement to religious hatred an offence.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sangeeta Mhaiskar
"Her comments have left British Muslims hurt and confused"
Discussing the issue:
Conservative peer Baroness Flather & Yousof Bhailok of the Muslim Council of Great Britain
Former Tory Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine
says he is horrified by Mrs Thatcher's comments
See also:

03 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Asylum and hate law to be overhauled
02 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Blair promises victory over terror
14 Sep 01 | UK Politics
MPs debate 'act of war'
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