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Last Updated: Friday, 28 November, 2003, 15:03 GMT
Complaint lodged over MacShane comments
Denis MacShane
MacShane says he "regrets any misunderstandings"
Muslim activists have called for a reprimand for a government minister over his call for Islamic leaders in Britain to condemn terrorist attacks more clearly.

Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane has stood by his comments, which prompted an angry reaction from Muslim leaders.

Now Muslim activists in his Rotherham constituency have said they have no confidence in their MP and written to Labour's NEC ruling body expressing their concerns.

A member of the NEC, Shahid Malik, has said he will take up the matter, adding that Muslims should not be expected to condemn terrorism any more strongly than other people.

People are very much offended that their patriotism has been called into question
Jahangir Akhtar
The row blew up after a speech Mr MacShane was to make to Labour activists was released and branded "disgraceful" by senior Muslims.

The minister toned down his comments when making the address, but maintained that Muslim leaders should use "stronger language".

Mr MacShane's speech in his Rotherham constituency was reported in advance after it was distributed by his office.

Regret

Rotherham councillor Jahangir Akhtar told BBC Radio 4's The World at One that the changes made in the speech were not enough for some Muslims.

The minister has now issued a statement saying he meant no offence and regretting "misunderstandings".

But Councillor Akhtar said: "People are very much offended that their patriotism has been called into question.

"The most devastating thing, we feel, that is implied is that in some way we should choose between the British democratic system of dialogue and the terrorism perpetrated by so-called Muslim groups.

"There are over 170 British Muslim councillors who believe in our democratic system that we have in Britain.

"We want the NEC to investigate these comments that our MP has made and if there is any action to be taken they should take it, because in this current climate of Islamophobia throughout the world, we think it is very unhealthy that a minister in such a senior position should make these comments."

'Angry and irritated'

Mr Malik told the programme: "It is certainly something I will be raising with the NEC and my NEC colleagues would expect me to do so.

"Undoubtedly, British Muslims have felt frustrated, angry, irritated and very upset by the comments, because clearly they are not terrorists and they don't subscribe to terrorism.

"At the same time, I have no doubt that far right-wing groups such as the BNP and National Front will draw much comfort from this and use it in their future rhetoric."

In his statement Mr MacShane said: "I regret any misunderstandings that may have arisen following a speech I made at a Rotherham Labour Party meeting. I meant no offence and I regret any wrong impression made by press reports.

"Labour Party members including Muslim councillors supported my remarks, which welcomed condemnation of terrorism by Muslim leaders locally and nationally.

Choice

"I work hard for Muslim families and friends in Rotherham and I am happy to discuss the need for a united front on terrorism with any of my constituents or colleagues in the Labour Party."

In his speech, Mr MacShane had said the elected and community leaders of British Muslims had to make a choice.

"It is the democratic, rule-of-law, if you like the British, American or Turkish way, based on political dialogue and non-violent protest like the one in London yesterday.

"Or it is the way of the terrorist against which the whole democratic world is uniting."

Mr MacShane welcomed the repeated condemnation by Muslim leaders of the suicide bombers.

But he kept a passage in which he called for "clearer, stronger language" that there is no future for any Muslim cause anywhere in the world that supports the use of political violence.





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