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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 05:59 GMT 06:59 UK
Europe Minister fuels race row
Europe minister Peter Hain
Peter Hain says isolation could mean exploitation
A minister has caused controversy by urging Muslims to try harder to integrate into British society.

Europe minister Peter Hain has been criticised for saying sections of the Muslim community are too "isolationist".


As a political activist, Peter Hain should know better

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Muslim parliament in Britain
He argued that with the far-right trying to exploit racial tensions it was important that some Muslims did more to adapt to British life.

During the same interview, he said Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith should expel a Conservative councillor from the party for his racist views.

Mr Hain said Geoffrey Sampson, a Sussex University professor who sits on Wealden council in East Sussex, had posted an item on his website called "There's nothing wrong with racism".

Expulsion call

In the article, Prof Sampson he argues that there is scientific evidence that races differ in intelligence levels.

Prof Sampson, who lectures in natural language computing, told The Observer: "It is simply the case that the majority of people have a feeling of preference to their own race than others."

Mr Hain, speaking on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme, said: "He has said he is proud to call himself a racialist, and there is nothing wrong with being a racialist.

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem spokesman
Simon Hughes criticised Hain's remarks on Muslims

"I think Iain Duncan Smith should expel him from the party, and anybody like him, because there are many in the Conservative ranks who clearly are racists and proud to be so."

The row comes soon after Mr Duncan Smith sacked frontbencher Ann Winterton over a racist joke she made at a rugby club dinner.

In his BBC interview, Mr Hain went on to say more needs to be done to integrate some parts of the Muslim population into British society.

He said isolationism in some parts of that community left them open to exploitation by extremists.

"We need to work much harder to integrate Muslims in particular with the rest of society," said Mr Hain.

Cultural contribution

"We very much welcome the contribution that the Muslim community makes to British culture.

"They enrich our culture, they are welcome here.

"But there is a tendency amongst a minority to isolate themselves and that leaves them vulnerable to either exploitation by Osama bin Laden-type extremists and fanatics on the one hand, or targeting by racists and Nazis on the other.

Iain Duncan Smith
Duncan Smith sacked frontbencher over a racist joke
"And that is were we need to work together to confront this problem."

Mr Hain said the current tensions in the Middle East - alongside the "historic injustice being done to the Palestinians" - had created anger and bitterness in the Muslim community in Britain.

He went on: "Equally we have got the situation where Muslims are being targeted by Nazi groups like the British National Party and racists.

"So we have to work together to make sure that we target both the racists themselves and the causes of racism."

Asylum issues

Mr Hain continues his theme in a interview for Monday's Guardian newspaper.

Robust policies against human trafficking had to run alongside the battle against racism, he says.

There can be "no soft touch", says Mr Hain, arguing that some "southern Mediterranean countries" do not process asylum seekers in the same way as Britain.

The Conservatives said they were looking into the case of Mr Sampson.

But a party spokesman claimed Mr Hain's remarks were aimed at distracting attention away from the controversy over the latest row over donations to Labour.

'Divisive'

The spokesman added: "Whenever Labour is in trouble they play the race card."

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament in Britain, described Mr Hain's comments as "divisive".

Dr Siddiqui said: "It is very sad. As a political activist, Peter Hain should know better."

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes, attending a 'Speak Out Against Racism' rally in London's Trafalgar Square, also criticised Mr Hain's comments on Muslims.

He said: "Identifying Muslims as the group most guilty of separatism in the UK, as the Minister for Europe has done, is simplistic and dangerous.

See also:

09 May 02 | UK Politics
Right-wing Tories cry betrayal
18 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Tories suspend link with Monday Club
05 May 02 | UK Politics
Tory leader defends 'tolerant' party
05 May 02 | UK Politics
Senior Tory sacked over racist joke
11 Oct 01 | UK Politics
No witch-hunt for extremists, says Tory
07 Oct 01 | Conservatives
Tory MPs quit far-right Monday Club
28 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith denies extremist support
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