London Bomb Attacks (Supplementary) [7]

Session date: 
July 20, 2005
Question By: 
Elizabeth Howlett
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Mr Mayor, I was coming in after Len Duvall's question about with whom you were going to communicate, and John Biggs has actually just communicated to you what, in fact, I was going to say. I had the fortunate occasion on Saturday of being with the Wimbledon branch of the British Muslims' Association. I am invited regularly to their seminars, and this was one that had been organised two months previously.

I have to say that I met with these good people who were absolutely astonished, astounded, and very grieving over what had happened. What they were saying was they needed help to understand their young people, because they agreed amongst themselves that there had been a disconnection between their elders and their young people. They talked about, perhaps, the necessity of having Muslim faith schools, as there are Anglican, Catholic, and Jewish faith schools. There are only five Muslim faith schools, and a primary one happens to have just opened in Wandsworth.

It was a wide discussion, but what I was going to ask you is to look a bit further than some of the representatives of the Muslim community with whom you have been talking. These people do want to connect. They talked about being mainstream, and they have put down roots and foundations. They were very, very upset that perhaps this action means that these roots and foundations in our country and in London would be torn up, which of course, is not so. They have to be convinced that if we stay together and do not divide, we are a strong community here in London.

Therefore, I would advise you to look a bit further than the people whom you sometimes talk to who say they are representatives of the Muslim community. These are ordinary, simple, hardworking, religious people, and Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. It is being misinterpreted to some of their young people, and they are very concerned about this, so I would ask you to look a bit wider than the people with whom you having been talking, and perhaps to have a much bigger discussion than you have had hitherto. I was not with half a dozen people; I was with a huge hall full of people, and they all felt the same.

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for London Bomb Attacks (Supplementary) [7]

Answer for London Bomb Attacks (Supplementary) [7]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The Muslim Council of Britain is the leading body representing a vast range of Muslim organisations, and we work closely with that, but we have many other links with Muslim groups across London. In exactly the same way, the Board of Deputies of British Jews may not represent every Jew, but it represents the majority and you deal with them. That is the situation of the Muslim Council of Britain.

They have the same worry that we do that they are not always engaging terribly well a new, young generation that is growing up. Sadly, there is disproportionate media coverage of people on the fringe, rather than the centrality of the Muslim community in this country. I have to say, as well, we have a vast range of meetings. Very seldom do any of them get any coverage. It is just a small number on which the press zeroes in, and that creates a distorted view.

As well, given now that the Muslim community in Britain is the second largest religious group after the Church of England, we need to recognise that we should assist that in developing strong roots in British culture. It was the case that, in the 19th century, the Government ' and I cannot remember which one it was ' actually made available funding so that Catholic priests could be trained in England, understanding English culture, rather than always coming from abroad. That is a real weakness.

Now, I would hope that one of the things that will come out of the Prime Minister's meeting yesterday with leaders of the Muslim community is we would look to try to ensure that we establish, in British universities, Islamic theological courses. We could then have British-born Muslims training to be imams here in this country, in the English language and with a clearer understanding of English culture than somebody who, inevitably, if they have had their training in a remote mountain area in Asia is unlikely to have. It is worth the Government putting some funding into this.