Britain's Muslims join forces to make one voice

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Representatives of more than 250 Muslim organisations met in London yesterday to launch the Muslim Council of Britain, the first umbrella organisation to represent Islam in this country.

The inauguration of the council, an independent, non-sectarian body designed to combat Islamophobia, was hailed as a milestone in the evolution of the Muslim community and its institutions which have built up in Britain over the past 30 years.

Some doubts were expressed yesterday about the viability of a single organisation representing all British Muslims, but Iqbal Sacranie, joint convenor of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, told the meeting at Brent Town Hall: "What unites us is far greater and stronger than any ethnicity, geographical origin or school of thought."

The council's aims included promoting co-operation, consensus and unity on Muslim affairs, encouraging and strengthening existing efforts being made for the benefit of the Muslim community, and working for a more enlightened appreciation of Islam and the eradication of forms of discrimination faced by Muslims.

The council is the result of a long period of consultation. A survey of Muslim opinion in 1994 found that 96 per cent of Britain's estimated 2 million Muslims felt a need for greater co-ordination and unity; 75 per cent felt a representative body should be formed; and 69 per cent were willing to participate in the process.

Abdul Wahid Hamid, a spokesman for the preparatory committee, said: "The aim is to highlight the fact that we are an asset to the nation and to celebrate the contribution we have made to society.

"We are also intent on sending the message that we are a mature community determined to play a full role in the future well-being of our country."