Muslims should not ‘go out of their way’ to prove loyalty to UK

Muslim Council of Britain responds to minister Eric Pickles’s letter to mosques

Muslims living peacefully in Britain should not feel that they "must go out of their way to prove their loyalty" to the country, the Muslim Council of Britain has said.

The statement came after communities secretary Eric Pickles told Muslim leaders that "more be done" by Muslims to combat extremism within their ranks.

In his letter, Pickles – who once successfully led the council in Bradford, a city with a sizeable Muslim population – repeatedly praised Muslims’ contribution to British society.

However, he went on to say that mosques and local Muslim leaders “bear a special responsibility” to ensure that young members of their faith do not fall under the sway of Islamic State or al-Qaeda.


The tone of the letter infuriated the Muslim Council of Britain, with its deputy secretary-general, Harun Khan saying that "hardly anybody" has been radicalised by a British mosque.

Instead, young men are being radicalised by extremist groups operating on the internet, he said. The letter, he added, would have “more balanced” if it had expressed concerns about the rise in hate-crime against Muslims.

However, prime minister David Cameron stood by Mr Pickles: "Anyone frankly reading this letter who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem", he said.

“It is absolutely right to write this letter, to say that we all have a responsibility to fight extremism. Anyone who reads this letter, and I’ve read the letter, will see that what he’s saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution.

“But everyone needs to help in dealing with this problem of radicalisation. I think it’s the most reasonable, sensible, moderate letter that Eric could possibly have written.”

Last week, culture secretary Sajid Javid, the son of Pakistani immigrants, told Muslims that they had to do more to confront extremism, since extremists are "warping" their faith – though his contribution did not provoke the one generated by Mr Pickles.

“There is a special burden on Muslim communities because whether we like it or not these terrorists call themselves Muslims. It is no good for people to say they are not Muslims. That is what they call themselves,” Mr Javid said.

Replying by letter to Mr Pickles, the Muslim Council's secretary-general Dr Shuja Shafi said Pickles' letter "could have worded differently", though he accepted that the Conservative minister had written "in good faith".

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is Ireland and Britain Editor with The Irish Times