Chuka Umunna storms off Sky News

The Labour shadow minister said presenter Dermot Murnaghan was being 'ridiculous'

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The Independent Online

Chuka Umunna, the shadow business secretary, stormed out of a Sky News interview after criticising presenter Dermot Murnaghan for asking him questions about Eric Pickles' letter to mosques in the UK, which he had not read yet.

Leading British Muslims have criticised the Communities Secretary for sending out the letter, in which he urges mosques to do more to root out extremists. The letter was sent to 1,000 Muslim leaders after the attack on Charlie Hebdo by extremists in France.

Murnaghan asked Umunna whether he felt Pickles' letter was "patronising" to Muslim communities. The Labour shadow minister replied, "I'm not sure I would use the word patronising for the simple reason I haven't actually read the letter, but you and I can have this debate if you want but the wider and more bigger issue for us is how do we ensure that young Muslim people.."

He was then interrupted by Murnaghan who asked, "Do you want come back on in half an hour's time? I mean, it doesn't take long to read the letter and then we'll have this discussion: patronising or reasonable?"

Umunna was angered by Murnaghan pressing the issue because he had thought he had been asked onto Sky News to discuss the government's economic policies.

"Well Dermot, I think you're being a bit ridiculous right now," Umunna said. "Your viewers can form their own views. I was asked to come and speak about David Cameron's speech on the economy and what was happening around the labor market. Nobody told me I was going to come on this programme and be asked to agree whether I thought the government was patronising Muslim people and Muslim leaders. I'm not just going to speak off-piste without having actually read the letter."

Murnaghan then suggested that Umunna wasn't going to talk about the letter until he'd been handed "the party line", prompting the Labour MP to sigh and storm off set.

Pickles' letter in question read, "You, as faith leaders, are in a unique position in our society. You have a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility: in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.

"We must show our young people, who may be targeted, that extremists have nothing to offer them...show them these men of hate have no place in our mosques or any place of worship."

Deputy secretary-general Harun Khan of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “We will be writing to Mr Eric Pickles to ask that he clarifies his request to Muslims to ‘explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity’.

David Cameron has hit out at criticism of the letter, saying anyone opposing it “really has a problem”.

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