Muslim Council of Britain

Muslim Council of Britain

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is a self-appointed[1] umbrella body for national, regional, local and specialist organisations and institutions from different ethnic and sectarian backgrounds within British Islamic society. It was established in 1997 to help Muslims, to increase education about the faith of Islam, and relieve suffering.[2] Other aims include building a consensus and unity on Muslim affairs in Britain.[citation needed]



The MCB replaced the National Interim Committee for Muslim Unity (NICMU) after a "process of countrywide consultations ... indicated that a large majority of British South-Asian Muslims were very concerned with the lack of unity, coordination and representation and supported the establishment of an umbrella body." The name 'The Muslim Council of Britain' was chosen on 25 May 1996 and it was inaugurated on 23 November 1997 at Brent Town Hall, by representatives of more than 250 Muslim South-Asian organisations from all parts of Britain.[3][4]

The Secretary General from 1997 to 2006, Iqbal Sacranie, received a knighthood in the 2005 Queen's Birthday Honours List for his longstanding service to the community and interfaith dialogue.[5]

The current Secretary General is Mr Farooq Murad, a management and training consultant by profession who was Chair of the Muslim Aid charity from 2004 to 2008.[citation needed] He was elected at the Annual General Meeting on 20 June 2010.[citation needed]


The MCB is made up of the following working committees: [6]

Working Group
Business & Economics
Europe & International Affairs
Food Standard & Chaplaincy
Finance and General Purpose
Health & Medical Issues
Interfaith Relations
Legal Affairs
Masjid & Community Affairs
Research and Documentation
Social & Family Affairs (SAFA)
Youth Affairs

Campaigns and Programmes

  • Towards Greater Understanding

A 2007 document produced by the MCB "intended to be used, as a source of reference by schools when reviewing their policies and practices in relation to meeting the needs of their South-Asian Muslim pupils".[7]

It deals with uniform: in public boys should always be covered between the navel and knee and girls should be covered except for their hands and faces - a concept known as hijab; beards for males; halal food; washing 'private parts' before prayers; fasting during Ramadan; avoiding medication and PE during Ramadan; avoiding mixed-sex sports; the right to withdraw from RE lessons; the right to study Islam at GCSE; it is not permissible for Muslims to participate in non-Islamic acts of worship; opportunities to study Arabic.[8]

The report claims to be an attempt to deal with these issues because "South-Asian Muslims are experiencing racism and Islamophobia both personally and institutionally through forms of marginalisation, discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping".[9]

  • Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB)

In 2006, MCB along with other major Muslim organisations launched "Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board" (MINAB), an independent self-regulatory body to supervise mosques, train imams, set out core standards and constitutions, and promote best practice in the British mosques.[10] The move was commended by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.[11]

  • Islam is Peace

The MCB supported the 'Islam is Peace' advertising campaign which aimed to "break down barriers of suspicion and division, challenge stereotypes, combat prejudice, and offer an opportunity for strengthening the values of respect, tolerance and peaceful co-existence."[12]

  • Books For Schools

In 2004, the MCB launched a 'Books for Schools' programme to provide "high-quality Islamic resources" for mainstream primary schools in the UK.[13] The material was put together by educationalists and teachers, with reference to the RE Non Statutory Framework (QCA). Resource packs include Islamic projects, objects, audio/visual items, booklets, card model kits, and posters.[14]

  • Footsteps

On May 2007, the MCB noted that: "The statistical evidence on underachievement of South-Asian Muslim students in all parts of the country is startling", and launched the 'Footsteps' campaign, designed to "identify role models for young persons to see and hear from with the aim that the experience will inspire and uplift the morale of young persons". These role models speak at secondary schools throughout the nation, primarily addressing thirteen and fourteen year olds, and seek to ensure that impressionable children are not tempted into deviant behaviour such as homosexuality and the mixing of sexes in education.[15]

  • Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

In 2004, the MCB printed half a million copies of a pocketbook '‘Know Your Rights & Responsibilities’ which were distributed across Britain. According to Iqbal Sacranie, the pocketbook sought "to reassure South-Asian Muslims about their rights and remind them of the responsibilities we all share to help build a more just and cohesive society." It also encouraged British South-Asian Muslims to "participate in the mainstream political parties with a view to seeking the common good," and listed the police Anti-Terror Hotline number while describing "the averting of possible terrorist attacks as 'an Islamic imperative'."[16] The pocketbook has since been updated and translated into the Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Arabic languages.

  • Mosque 100

This programme, started in summer 2007, targets 100 medium sized Mosques and South-Asian Muslim organisations from across the country, aiming to "empower and capacity build within a year" by providing training and access to resources. Assessing the performance of this programme will depend on a number of criteria, including "number of voluntary and community groups assisted" and the "organisation's ability to access information on specific topics."[17]


Accounts presented to the Charity Commission say the Charitable Foundation had an income of £139,391 for the year 2006–2007; the accounts for the Foundation since it was large enough to be required to present them have typically been months overdue.

The MCB has applied for and gained finance for projects devoted to the development of Muslim communities in Britain.[18] The MCB received £150,000 of public money from the Government for a number of specific projects. These were: the MCB leadership development programme; the MCB leadership mentoring programme; MCB direct, a web portal for information on Islam and Muslims; a British citizenship programme, and the British Muslim Equality Programme.[19]

In 2006 the MCB won a grant of £300,000 from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). According to a DFID press release, projects will include (subject to final arrangements) producing teaching materials for Muslim schools (known as madrasahs) and a website focusing on work to reduce poverty and links between Muslim communities in the UK and those in Nigeria, Bangladesh and India.[20]


The Muslim Council of Britain often issues press releases in response to political issues, especially those related to Islam or Muslims.


Following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, the MCB issued statements expressing its disgust at the events, saying: "All of us must unite in helping the police to capture these murderers."[21]

The Muslim Council of Britain has strongly condemned the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which they said "highlighted a massive disconnect between public opinion – including Muslim opinion – on the one side and the political classes on the other".[22] The group condemns terrorism by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and has urged Muslims to help in the fight against terrorism.[23] Following allegations that police had wire-tapped a Muslim MP, the Council said it was vital "to hold to account the improper behaviour of senior police officers."[24]

In February 2006, the MCB urged MPs to vote for the Lords Amendment to the Terrorism Act 2006, which removed the ‘glorification of terrorism’ clause from the bill.[25] They stated that the bill was perceived as "unfairly targeting Muslims and stifling legitimate debate".[25] The bill was eventually passed without the amendment by 315 votes to 277.[26]

The MCB has co-operated with trades union, for example by issuing a joint statement with the Trades Union Congress urging better community relations and encouraging Muslims to join trades union.[27]

On 3 March 2008, the MCB criticised the Foreign Secretary David Miliband's response to Israel's killing of over 100 Palestinians in Gaza as "blatantly one-sided", and said: "If we are serious about wanting peace, we must act as honest brokers, not partisan bystanders."[28]

When schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons was jailed in Sudan for allowing her class to name a teddy bear by the same name as the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, the MCB condemned the incident as "a gross overreaction" and said the Sudanese authorities lacked basic common sense.[29]

Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy

When editorial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad were printed in the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005, the MCB saw them as reflecting "the emergence of an increasingly xenophobic tone being adopted towards Muslims in parts of the Western media" and argued that: "We should not allow our valued freedoms in Europe to be abused by those deliberately seeking to provoke hatred and division between communities". At the same time, they said they regarded "the violent threats made against Danish and EU citizens by some groups in the Muslim world as completely unacceptable."[30]

Support and Criticism

  • Between 2001 and 2007, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) expressed its unwillingness to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony and associated events, due to the "ongoing genocide and violation of Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere". Iqbal Sacranie stated that the MCB were "one with fellow members of the British Jewish community in their pains and anguish over this savage and shameful event in recent history." This policy was criticised by Labour MP Louise Ellman and Terry Sanderson of the British National Secular Society, among others. In later years they called for the day to be replaced by a "Genocide Memorial Day". On 3 December 2007, the MCB voted to end the boycott. Assistant General Secretary Inayat Bunglawala argued it was "inadvertently causing hurt to some in the Jewish community". It drew criticism for this from some, for example Anas al-Tikriti, who said: "rather than a mere remembrance of victims of one of the most heinous crimes in history", Holocaust Memorial Day has "become a political event" which "glorifies the state of Israel, turning a collective blind eye to the immeasurable suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis every single day."[31]
  • The opposition of the Council to the ‘glorification of terrorism’ clause in the Terrorism Act 2006 and to British policy in Iraq was subject to both praise and criticism. Sunny Hundal wrote in an exchange with Sir Iqbal Sacranie: "In order to defeat violent extremism, we must understand what motivates these people and what turns them into killers. What puts them in that frame of mind? The Iraq war alone is not enough." He also criticised what he saw as close links between the MCB and the Labour Party. Sacranie conceded that "propaganda literature may well play a role", but emphasised: "such propaganda can only be effective because of the conducive atmosphere we have helped create."[35]
  • The MCB has been criticised by Martin Bright, among others, for failing to be truly representative. He said, in response to an article by Madeleine Bunting: "any body that represents itself as speaking for the Muslim community must demonstrate that is entirely non-sectarian and non-factional. The MCB has consistently failed in this area and the Government should consider cutting all ties until it has thoroughly reformed itself." [36] Madeleine Bunting disagreed, saying: "To the extent that the government over-relied on the MCB, it was due to the laziness of the government wanting only to hear one voice". She said it would be "absurd to exclude the MCB, the biggest Muslim organisation in this country and the one that has achieved the greatest degree of non-factionalism and non-sectarianism."[37]
  • Jewish community leaders in Britain have criticised government links with the MCB on account of what they see as the MCB's antisemitism. [38]

Allegations of Libel Against Hazel Blears

In March 2009, The Observer reported [39] that individuals including Daud Abdullah, the Deputy Secretary General of the MCB, had signed what has become known as the Istanbul Declaration (not to be confused with the 2004 Istanbul summit) in January of that year. This was in relation to opposition to Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli military action in Gaza of December 2008 and January 2009.

As reported, the Declaration implored the "Islamic Nation" to oppose by any means thought necessary all individuals deemed supportive of the "Zionist enemy" (meaning Israel). At the time of signing, foreign political leaders, including the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown had suggested providing peacekeeping Naval forces to monitor arms-smuggling between Gaza and Egypt.[40]

An open letter [41] from the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, was subsequently published in The Guardian, as she stated that no further dealings would be conducted by the British Government with the MCB until it distanced itself from Dr. Abdullah's remarks and he resigned. In a response, also published in the Guardian newspaper, Dr. Abdullah called her remarks a "misguided and ill-advised attempt to exercise control" [42] stated his intention to remain in position. Subsequently, he announced his intention to sue Hazel Blears, in respect of her office, should she not retract her letter and issue an apology by 15 April 2009.[43]

A letter from the Treasury Solicitor's Department, acting on behalf of Hazel Blears and HM Government, to Dr. Abdullah's solicitors revealed their willingness to continue with such a course of action.[44] It closed with the statement, "It follows, of course, that your offer of settlement is rejected". No further reports of attempts to pursue a libel case by Dr. Adbullah or the MCB have been heard.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "". MCB. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  4. ^ "" (PDF). MCB. Retrieved 2008-03-28. [dead link]
  5. ^ "". BBC News. 2005-06-12. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Casciani, Dominic (2006-06-27). "". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  11. ^ Wintour, Patrick (2007-10-30). "Muslim groups draft rulebook for mosques to drive out extremists". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  12. ^ MCB
  13. ^ MCB
  14. ^ MCB
  15. ^ MCB
  16. ^ MCB
  17. ^
  18. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  21. ^ MCB
  22. ^ MCB
  23. ^ Muir, Hugh (2007-07-04). "Muslims must help police more, leaders urge". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  24. ^ Dodd, Vikram (2008-02-04). "Inquiry is vital to retain Muslim confidence - MP". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  25. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  26. ^ Travis, Alan (2006-02-16). "". The Guardian (London).,,1710761,00.html. Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  27. ^ "". TUC. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  28. ^ "". MCB. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  29. ^ "". MCB. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  30. ^ "". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  31. ^ Altikriti, Anas (2007-12-04). "Forgetting to remember". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  32. ^ Tatchell, Peter (2006-10-25). "Respect is a two-way street". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  33. ^ The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  34. ^ Whitaker, Brian (2007-05-01). "Tentative steps". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  35. ^ Two, Take (2007-03-23). "Sunny Hundal v Inayat Bunglawala". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  36. ^ New Statesman – Silly Bunt
  37. ^ Bunting, Madeleine (2007-07-12). "A dialogue of the deaf". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-19. 
  38. ^ [1]
  39. ^ Doward, Jamie (8 March 2009). "Daud Abdullah Urged to Quit Over Gaza". (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  40. ^ "Brown in UK Navy Offer for Gaza". (BBC News Online). 17 January 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  41. ^ Blears, Hazel (25 March 2009). "Why the Government Will Not Talk to the MCB Until Daud Abdullah Resigns". (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  42. ^ Abdullah, Daud (26 March 2009). "My Response to Hazel Blears". (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  43. ^ Hirsch, Afua (4 April 2009). "Hazel Blears Faces Libel Action for Attack on Leading Muslim". (London). Retrieved 2009-05-26. 
  44. ^ "Rejection of Daud Abdullah's Legal Threat". 9 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-26. 

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