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Muslims who resent the British way of life should leave the UK, regardless of whether they are citizens or not, a senior Conservative said last night in comments that have heightened already tense community relations.
Gerald Howarth, the shadow defence minister, last night told The Scotsman that extremist Muslims who see the Iraq war as a conflict against Islam should be considered as treacherous as Soviet sympathisers during the Cold War. His remarkable claim shatters the tri-party consensus which Michael Howard, the Tory leader, sought to make with Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and the Liberal Democrats.
Mr Howarth said yesterday that he is incensed by suggestions from Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, that Britain is “part of the problem” in Iraq — and said that the problem in the UK lies in fanatical Muslims living within our shores.
He is the first mainstream UK politician to suggest that extremist British Muslims should leave for Islamic societies. The government is looking at deporting foreign-born nationals and imprisoning British Muslims who incite or glorify terrorism.
“If they don’t like our way of life, there is a simple remedy: go to another country, get out,” Mr Howarth said. Asked what if these people were born in Britain, he replied: “Tough. If you don’t give allegiance to this country, then leave.”
He added: “There are plenty of other countries whose way of life would appear to be more conducive to what they aspire to. They would be happy and we would be happy.”
This was the overwhelming view of people he spoke to, the Tory MP for Aldershot added.
Mr Howarth compared those who despised British values to the traitors who spied for Russia. The shadow defence minister also criticised his colleague, Dominic Grieve, the shadow attorney general, who suggested the suicide bombings were “explicable” by the anger many British Muslims felt over the war and the state of Islam.
Mr Howarth stressed that the majority of Muslims did adhere to British values and described how the Union Flag had been flown at a meeting he had with Muslims over the weekend. However, his remarks were condemned as “arrogant” and “naive” by the Muslim Association of Britain.
Its spokesman, Anas Altikriti, compared the Tory defence spokesman to those who carried out the attacks on London, saying: “They bombed in order to eliminate people, while he is proposing to eliminate people by deporting them.”
He also questioned to which country Mr Howarth proposed Muslims should go, as there were no Muslim countries as such, just Muslim people.
Mr Howarth was criticised by Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem deputy leader, who warned the outburst risked inflaming religious and ethnic tensions.
However, Mr Howarth’s views were backed by the leading Muslim politician Mohammed Sarwar, a Glasgow MP who chairs Muslim Friends of Labour. “When it comes to extremists, for example Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza and what they are advocating, then I agree with what Mr Howarth said. There is absolutely no room for people like them in a civilised, democratic society like ours,” Mr Sarwar said.
Crimes motivated by religious hatred have rocketed by nearly 600 per cent in London since the July 7 bombings. They include verbal and physical attacks and criminal damage.
Meanwhile in Edinburgh, police are investigating after two Asians were subjected to a racist attack by a gang of 10 men who made comments about the London bombings.
(Posted on August 3, 2005)