Eric Pickles’s letter to Mosques is pretty anodyne. It is hard to see how it could be objected to. But the Muslim Council of Britain is busy complaining about it. Its deputy secretary general Harun Khan is quoted in The Guardian saying,
“Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?”
Now, if you read the letter it is very hard to argue that this is any way what Pickles is saying. He writes, ‘British values are Muslim values. Like all faiths, Islam and its message of peace and unity makes our country a better and stronger place, and Britain would be diminished without its strong Muslim communities.’ While his comment that ‘ultimately the challenges of integration and radicalisation cannot be solved from Whitehall alone’ is little more than a statement of the obvious.
The MCB’s response, with its gratuitous reference to the far right, suggests a desire to shut down discussion rather than to join in a constructive conversation. It is a response that does the organisation little credit and is a disservice to the people that it claims to represents.