Government shuns Muslim Council over link with Hamas

The Government has severed relations with the country's leading Muslim organisation, saying a senior member is a supporter of Hamas, the Palestinian military organisation.

A letter leaked to The Independent on Sunday shows that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, wrote to the Muslim Council of Britain, calling for Dr Daud Abdullah to resign.

She alleges he was one of 90 Muslim leaders from around the world who signed a public declaration of support for Hamas, the elected government of the Gaza strip in Israel, and military action against Israel.

A spokeswoman for the department said: "We are concerned that the statement calls for direct support for acts of violence in the Middle East and beyond. We are also aware that a senior member of the MCB may have been a signatory to this statement. If it is proven that the individual concerned had been a signatory, we would expect the MCB to ask him to resign and to confirm its opposition to acts of violent extremism."

Members of the Muslim community reacted angrily to the letter at a conference in Birmingham where they met yesterday to discuss the issue.

An MCB spokesperson said: "We will make clear to the Government that as far as the MCB is concerned we utterly condemn the targeting or killing of soldiers anywhere in the world. But the MCB will not be dictated to by Hazel Blears. We do not take orders from Ms Blears. She is mistaken if she thinks the MCB will dismiss people at her say-so."

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