Below is an article from Common Sense
issue 21 (Summer
1997) on the topic of New Labour - old
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
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
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,
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
I hope this is of
Letter of general
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
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:
I am writing following a
telephone call received in this office on 13 June from Mr Ahmed
Versi of the Muslim News.
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.
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
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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