British Muslim leaders steps up to defend community

SHAFAQNA - A Bristol mosque leader has called on the Prime Minister to end the “incessant questioning of British Muslims” he says is colouring political debate.

Abdul Malik, a former city councillor and Parliamentary candidate in the last General Election, says the country’s Muslims “are already as British as is possible”.

Mr Malik, 41, spoke out after David Cameron made a speech outlined his five-year plan to tackle Islamic extremism.

Mr Cameron said “British values” are what will keep youngsters from going to join Islamic State.

He said the government would “incentivise” schools to become more integrated and said more action would be taken on the issues of forced marriage and female genital mutilation, saying: “No more turning a blind eye on the basis of cultural sensitivities.”

But Mr Malik said the PM should stop linking debates about integration to debates about violent extremism.

The chairman of Bristol’s Easton Jamia Mosque told the Bristol Post: “Instead of calling on Muslims to ascribe to some imagined list of ‘British values’, Cameron would do well to recognise that British Muslims are already as British as is possible.

“Their strengths are Britain’s strengths and their failures are Britain’s failures. By ending the incessant questioning of British Muslims, the rhetoric of violent extremists is undermined.”

Mr Malik, of Easton, is Bristol born and raised, having attended Whitehall Primary School and Whitefield Fishponds School.

He was Bristol’s first Muslim and Asian city councillor when elected in 2005 and stood as a Liberal Democrat candidate in the Bristol East seat retained by Labour’s Kerry McCarthy in May’s General Election.

He received the Post‘s Social Responsibility Award for his work in the community in 2011.

Mr Malik said that, while tackling forced marriage and female genital mutilation was important, “it has nothing to do with terrorism, and largely cuts across religious groups”.

On Monday Mr Cameron announced plans to allow parents to have their children’s passports cancelled if they fear they are heading to fight for Islamic State.

It followed a series of teenagers leaving the UK for Syria, including 15-year-old city Academy pupil Yusra Hussien, of Easton, who is thought to have become a jihadi bride.

Mr Cameron said: “Wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever our religion, there are things we share together.

“We are all British. This is the home we have built together. We can all feel part of this country – and we must all now come together and stand up for our values with confidence and pride.”

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