Howells rejects British Muslim claims

Claims by British Muslim groups that Britain’s foreign policy is responsible for the current critical terror alert have been rejected by Foreign Office minister Kim Howells.

A letter addressed to the prime minister and signed by three Muslim MPs and other British Muslim groups calls for an urgent revision of UK foreign policy.

It calls on Tony Blair to do more to fight against terrorism but to put more focus on protecting the civilians in the UK and abroad.

“It is our view that current British government policy risks putting civilians at increased risk both in the UK and abroad,” it says.

“To combat terror the government has focused extensively on domestic legislation. While some of this will have an impact, the government must not ignore the role of its foreign policy.”

It calls the Iraqi war a “debacle” and says that the failure to end attacks on civilians in the Middle East, such as the current fighting in Lebanon, is making the UK a threat to extremists.

It has been signed by MPs Sadiq Khan, Shahid Malik and Mohammed Sarwar, peers Lord Patel of Blackburn, Lord Ahmen of Rotherham and Baroness Uddin, and 38 groups including the Muslim Association of Britain, the British Muslim Forum, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

However, Mr Howells described their collective opinions on the link between terrorism and foreign policy as “facile”.

“I have no doubt that there are many issues which incite people to loathe government policies but not to strap explosives to themselves and go out and murder innocent people. there is no way of rationalising that,” he told the BBC.

“I think it is very, very dangerous when people who call themselves community leaders make some assumption that somehow that there’s a rational connection between these two things.”

Lord Ahmed defended the letter, however, saying that it was intended to unite civilians in Britain and abroad against these attacks.

“What we are asking is that the government’s recent action in terms of Lebanon are seen to be double standards: that we care for some civilians in this part of the world but that we don’t care for the civilians elsewhere,” he told Today.