Government must engage with all sections of the Muslim community

19th Mar 2021
Government must engage with all sections of the Muslim community

Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt and the Muslim Council of Britain Secretary-General Zara Mohammed (Photo  UK Parliament/MCB)

Last month’s meeting between Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt and the Muslim Council of Britain’s newly elected Secretary-General only highlights the reluctance of the Government to engage with all sections of the Muslim community.

Downing Street was at pains to deny that the Paymaster General’s talks with Zara Mohammed were official in any way. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s named Press Secretary, Allegra Stratton, claimed that the meeting was met “incapacity as a constituency MP” even though Mohammad is not a resident in the Minister’s north Portsmouth constituency.

The Tory Government has imposed a non-engagement policy towards the MCB since returning to power in 2010. It continued the example set by Labour temporality-cutting ties in Gordon Brown’s premiership in 2009 following a public row over one of MCB leader’s alleged personal support for the Palestinians using violence against Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza. The then Communities Secretary Hazel Blears demanded MCB sack its Deputy Secretary-General, which the MCB refused; relations were restored before Labour lost the general election.

The situation with the Tories has deteriorated to the point where the party has refused to hold an independent inquiry on the extent of Islamophobia within its ranks. Mohammed was elected in February as not only the first woman leader of MCB but also the youngest. Her early meeting with Mordaunt followed a rather hostile interview she had surprisingly on the BBC’s flagship magazine programme Woman’s Hour. It led to some 564 complaints and a public admonishment of Emma Barnett’s behaviour in an open letter signed by 200 prominent figures.

Although the corporation’s Director-General, Tim Davie, refused to intercede, he got Woman’s Hour to issue a statement that said it would ‘reflect’ on the issues and concerns raised since it always listens to feedback and learns. The controversial interview from a former presenter of Newsnight proved to be something of a baptism of fire for the new MCB leader ahead of her meeting with the Tory minister and subsequent Government denial it was official.
The treatment of such a senior Muslim by the British institution is shabby and unbecoming at best.

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