UK Muslims angry as sharia likened to far-right BNP

Tuesday, January 30, 2007; 1:40 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - British opposition leader David Cameron has incurred the wrath of Muslim groups by likening those with extreme Islamic views to the far-right British National Party.

Cameron's Conservative Party is due to launch a report on Tuesday about community relations in the country that will likely trigger further debate.

"Those who seek a sharia state, or special treatment and a separate law for British Muslims are, in many ways, the mirror image of the BNP," Cameron said in a speech in Birmingham, central England, on Monday.

"They also want to divide people into us and them. And they too seek out grievances to exploit," he said, according to the party's Web site.

Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, responded by telling BBC News that anyone would find it offensive to be likened to the BNP.

"This link of any Muslim mainstream organization to the fascism of BNP, it will be taken as a serious offence," he said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization Britain threatened to ban after the 2005 attacks on London, also criticized the remarks.

"Cameron is guilty of scaremongering," Imran Waheed, media representative for the group in Britain, said in a statement.

The Conservative Party's National and International Security Policy Group is due to launch a report on Tuesday which the BBC said would suggest groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) harbored and even promoted extremist views.

"Its hardline members tend to dominate policy and crowd out more moderate and varied voices," the BBC's flagship political program "Newsnight" quoted the report as saying.

"As a result the MCB's claim to foster good community relations and work for the good of society as a whole is hard to reconcile with some of the positions it's taken," it said.

The interim report also said a "significant number" of Muslim groups were "keener to promote ideology than the totality of the communities they claim to represent," the BBC reported.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the government must reconsider its strategy of multiculturalism -- where different communities live side by side -- after four British Islamist suicide bombers killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005.

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