Labor MP Naz Shah sparked the debate after criticizing No 10’s alleged “secret boycott” of a “controversial” Muslim organisation.
On Sunday evening Daily Mail has announced a “boycott” of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) No 10 after Conservative leadership candidate Penny Mordaunt was criticized for meeting with the group in 2021.
Shah herself has been no stranger to controversy, having been suspended from Labor in 2016 for Facebook posts in 2014 that suggested Israel should be “relocated” to the US. After the comments were published, she left her post as parliamentary assistant to then shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
She is later told On BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme, that although she “wasn’t anti-Semitic…what I put out was anti-Semitic”. TThe whip was restored to her later that year.
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Chess said the deputies in Monday’s confidence debate she “[did] don’t know where to start with Conservative governments engagement with Muslim communities’ and called the MCB ‘a mainstream Muslim organization supported by the UK’s main Muslim mosques, organizations and institutions’.
“When I saw the first page Daily Mail last night and heard about the so-called “cunning decision” of the minister of trade policy, prov. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), meeting with a ‘controversial’ Muslim group, I did not expect to be meeting with a mainstream Muslim organization whose members on both sides of the House meet regularly.”
She is later tweeted that “The boycott of @MuslimCouncil #10 is disgraceful. The days when conservative governments could support 1/2 people based Muslim organizations funded for their own purposes are over!
“Every community has a right to be heard by their government, just like British Muslims,” she continued.
Theresa May’s former Downing Street chief of staff, Nick Timothy, responded to Shah’s comments via Twitter, answering: The MCB “Boycott” began in 2009 under Gordon Brown, who was strongly supported by Hazel Blears. This was prompted by MCB Deputy Secretary General Daud Abdullah, who signed the Istanbul Declaration, which justified terrorism. I am not aware that the MCB has ever denounced the Declaration.’
The Gordon Brown administration was indeed the first to cut ties with the organization in 2009 after the then Deputy Secretary-General, Dr Daoud Abdullah, signed a declaration advocating Muslims participating in “jihad” against the state of Israel.
The then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, issued an open letter stressing that the government would not deal with the MCB until Abdullah resigned and the organization distanced itself from the declaration. Abdullah replied to Blears Guardian newspaper, accusing her of “an ill-conceived attempt to exercise control” and threatened to sue for defamation. The government dismissed Abdullah’s threats and no legal action was taken.
In 2010, Blears’ successor as Communities Secretary, John Denham, renewed the relationship with MCB.
The government said Guardian that: “MCB… made it clear to us that Daoud Abdullah signed the relevant statement in his personal capacity.” While admitting it had not disavowed the statement, the government admitted it remained “…concerned about the uncertainty of Daoud Abdullah’s personal position on this matter”, saying they would “not communicate with him” until he provided “clarifications , which we have always been looking for.”
In accordance with MCB website, “only” the Conservative Party has had no formal ministerial engagement with the group in recent years. The organization claims to have met with several Liberal Democrat ministers during the coalition years.
Dr Rakib Ehsan, an expert on social cohesion, said Politics.co.uk in light of the controversy: “The UK Government is right to be cautious about engaging with ‘public organisations’ which are not necessarily representative. Identitarian group advocacy tends to portray Britain in an overly negative light. The reality of the matter is that Britain is one of the best places for a Muslim to live.’
Mordaunt, who was kicked out of the Tory leadership race on Wednesday afternoon, tweeted about meeting current MCB secretary Zara Mohammed last February, writing: “Great to meet @ZaraM01 today, wish her all the best and learn more about her plans. We will be glad to work with her and her team. #IWD2021 @MuslimCouncil.”
Mohammed has led the MCB since she was elected as the first female secretary last year. She answered to Mordaunt’s post, which read: “Nice to meet you @PennyMordaunt, thank you for your support and words of wisdom, looking forward to tackling inequality and empowering more women #IWD2021”.
Mohammed said Politics.co.uk: “To date, the government has not justified its arbitrary and non-transparent policy of non-interaction. Instead, we are subjected to insinuations that use anti-Muslim tropes that we are extremist and un-British. In fact, we are a democratic British organization representing a cross-section of Muslim communities. We value our communities, especially in initiatives that contribute to the common good. Mainstream voices in other religious communities are not treated this way, and neither should we.’
Politics.co.uk has approached Penny Mordaunt MP for comment.
Labour MP sparks debate after slamming No 10 boycott of ‘controversial’ Muslim group