BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 13 May, 2002, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Anger over minister's race remarks
Europe minister Peter Hain
Peter Hain says isolation could mean exploitation
A minister has been accused of reinforcing Muslims' sense of being under siege in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

The attack from Shahid Malik, senior member of the Commission for Racial Equality, came after Europe Minister Peter Hain urged Muslims to try harder to integrate into British society.

As a political activist, Peter Hain should know better

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Muslim parliament in Britain

Mr Hain, a long-time anti-racism campaigner, said sections of the Muslim community were too "isolationist".

Mr Malik, a member of Labour's national executive committee, told BBC News Online that such comments were "extremely counter-productive".

They instead developed into isolationism and became a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

Far-right worries

Mr Malik said it was dangerous to focus on Muslims after the US terror attacks when all communities contained isolationist elements.

He continued: "Many Muslims in this country are felling like it is open season on Islam and Muslims and that they are under siege.

"Of course, these comments will reinforce much of that."

The Foreign Office minister has argued that more integration was needed to stop the far-right exploiting tensions over race.

But Mr Malik said the far-right British National Party had focused on Muslims.

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem spokesman
Simon Hughes criticised Hain's remarks on Muslims
"If you start to engage with that agenda then you give it credibility when it has no credibility at all."

Mr Malik said more recognition was needed that there was no single British culture.

Instead, a set of core values to which people from all communities could sign up.

Mr Hain's comments have also been labelled "divisive" by Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament in Britain, who said the minister should have known better.

Community contribution

Mr Hain told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost that more needed 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.

Ann Cryer, Labour MP
Ann Cryer stressed Hain's anti-apartheid background
"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.

"And that is were we need to work together to confront this problem."

'Dangerous comments'

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."

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."

Tory race controversy

But Labour MP Ann Cryer pointed to Mr Hain's record in opposing apartheid as proof that he would not do anything racist.

Instead, he was just trying to counter any possible right-wing backlash, argued Ms Cryer.

The minister also used his BBC interview to call for the Conservatives to expel East Sussex councillor Geoffrey Sampson over his comments on race.

Professor Sampson says it is "barely controversial" to say different races have different levels of intelligence.

The Conservatives said they were looking into the case of Mr Sampson but accused Labour of "playing the race card" in an attempt to divert attention away from the latest donor controversy.

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
20 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Minister's licence to speak
21 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Peter Hain: 'Son of Africa'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories