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     New Labour - Old Arrogance



Below is an article from Common Sense issue 21 (Summer 1997) on the topic of New Labour - old arrogance.

After Tony Blair's election victory, Islamic Party of Britain deputy leader Dr. Hany Nasr , sent the new prime minister a letter of congratulation, highlighting at the same time some of the concerns of Britain's Muslims. The response was astounding, a letter by the immigration department, saying that the government was committed to upholding firm controls on immigration. Immigration was not mentioned once in Dr. Nasr's letter. A further letter by Islamic Party of Britain general secretary Sahib Mustaqim Bleher had no effect, until the Muslim press picked up the issue. In the end we received an apology of sorts. The morale: those Muslims who voted Labour thinking that this party would champion the cause of minority rights should learn not to trust non-Muslim politicians on their election promises. The correspondence is quoted below.

Dr. Nasr's letter to the prime minister:

Dear Mr Blair,

I would like to warmly congratulate you for the fantastic victory that you have achieved over the Conservative Party. As you are aware there are approximately 2.million Muslims in this country. Unfortunately their representation is muted, and in fact the first Muslim M.P was elected amongst your ranks in the Labour Party in this election.

Muslims are Peace loving, hardworking, honest men and women. The rate of alcohol/substance abuse (drugs etc.) amongst them is negligible, if they stick to the rules of Islam ( which is the original religion of Abraham, and subsequently Moses and Jesus ).These rules are simple, believe in the Creator of the Universe and do no wrong to yourself, family, society and the environment we live in.

I have heard you talking about equity in society and the young being allowed to grow and prosper and mature in a caring society and all to be cared for and secured in their old age. All these principles are in Islam.

Family is the cornerstone to society and a healthy family will lead to a healthy society. All social laws of Islam emphasise the importance of a strong cohesive family.

Justice and Peace in international relationship is the way of Islam. I wish you success in upholding justice and promoting peace based on justice in all the troubled areas of the world throughout Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and some areas of Europe. I hope that your Government will take into account the size of Muslims minority living in this country and respond to their urgent need for equity with other minorities by having consideration to the support of their private Muslim schools ( Following the lead of other European countries like Denmark and Austria where Islam is recognised officially in Education and Muslims have their own Government Aided Schools) by recognising the family Law of Islam and by looking for ways of reducing the effects of the hysterical hostility towards Islam and the complete confusion and ignorance about the pillars 'of Islam In our society. As Islam now, as a religion, is part of the British heritage, and working to reduce tension between community is an integral part of your responsibility towards the people who offered you their overwhelming support in this election.

Finally, I wish you, your family, and all the people you love, all the best for the future. I hope you fulfil all your dreams of leading our country to prosperity, strength, and as you put it, for our country to stand high amongst nations.

I am extending a hand of friendship and co-operation to you to promotepeace and integration between communities in our country.

Reply by Mrs. J. McCluskey of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate:

Dear Dr Nasr,

Your letter of 6 May, to the Prime Minister, has been passed to the Home Office to reply because of this Department is responsible for immigration issues. Your views have been noted.

The Government is committed to up holding firm controls on immigration. However, - it is also determined that applications should be dealt with speedily and fairly. In its manifesto, the Government made clear that it would reform the arbitrary and unfair results that can follow from the primary purpose rule. An announcement will be made about that soon. The Government will create a streamlined system of appeals for visitors denied a visa. It will ensure swift and fair decisions in asylum cases. The Government will also control unscrupulous immigration advisers and crack down on the fraudulent use of birth certificates.

I hope this is of interest.

Letter of general secretary Sahib Mustaqim Bleher to Downing Street:

Our deputy leader, Dr. Hany Nasr, has asked me to take up correspondence with you regarding his original letter to the prime minister dated 6 May. In this letter, Dr. Nasr raised a number of issues relating to the Muslim population in this country, and urged the prime minister to give Muslims the due consideration they deserve as an integral part of British society. Whilst education, social justice, crime, discrimination were all referred to in Dr. Nasr's letter, immigration was not amongst the issues raised by our deputy leader. It is most surprising and telling, therefore, that a reply was sent by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, stating the home office's view on immigration matters.

Does the prime minister and leader of "new labour" still believe in the old cliche that Muslims are nothing but a bunch of immigrants? Does the new government not recognise that increasingly the demographic make-up of British Muslims is changing with an increasing number of British born Muslims. Would the government have sent a similar letter, dealing with immigration issues, if a Christian party or pressure group had expressed its concerns about society to the prime minister? Or does this reply indicate that the prime minister's, office is simply not bothered to read letters by Muslims with due attention?

I would request that you bring these questions to the prime minister's attention, as the answers to those are crucial with respect to how Muslims can expect to be treated by the new administration.

Apology by Eleanor Marshall of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate:

Dear Sir

I am writing following a telephone call received in this office on 13 June from Mr Ahmed Versi of the Muslim News.

The telephone conversation centred around a letter that you had received on 2 June from The Immigration Directorate in response to your letter of 6 May addressed to the Prime Minister.

Mr Versi explained that you had relayed the content of this letter to him and expressed your concern that a response from the Immigration Directorate was not appropriate given that your letter was concerned with the Muslim community in Britain and your wish for greater recognition and understanding of Islam. Mr Versi explained that you and the Islamic Party had felt insulted by the response received.

On re-examination of your letter it is clear that you were not raising immigration issues and that the response you received was not appropriate. I understand your concern on receiving this letter and apologise for any distress that this may have caused.

Mr Versi advised me that you have written again to the Prime Minister's office. The correspondence section in Mr Blair's office have been advised of this and will ensure that your letter is directed to the appropriate department.

Once again please accept my apologies for this error.

Apology by Vivien Pugh of the Home Office:

Thank you for your letter of 10 June to Miss Gorman in the Prime Minister's Office at 10 Downing Street. As you know, your letter has been forwarded to the Home Office and I have been asked to reply.

I regret any misunderstanding which may have been caused by Dr Nasr's correspondence with the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. I understand that Eleanor Marshall wrote to Dr Nasr on 16 June expressing her concern that he had been sent a response which was clearly inappropriate. I would like to add my apologies for any distress which this error may have caused.

Let me make it clear, the Government attaches great importance to the objectives of eliminating discrimination and promoting equality of opportunity in our society. The Government fully recognises the valuable contribution which the Muslim community has made to the life, culture and economy of this country. As the Prime Minister has said:

'I am passionately committed to creating a society where every individual, regardless of colour, creed or race, is afforded the same opportunities and respect as his or her neighbour. That means a society where Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Christians are free to worship, where expectations of black and Asian children are high, and where no-one fears attack for reasons of their skin colour or background.

Please let me know if you require any additional information.

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