MP tells mosques to fly the flag

An MP today urged Muslims across the country to fly the Union flag on mosques to show their unity and commitment to Britain.

Exclusive By Anika Bourley

An MP today urged Muslims across the country to fly the Union flag on mosques to show their unity and commitment to Britain.

Shipley MP Philip Davies wants Muslim communities to adopt the measures after similar demands were made in Australia.

He argued that such a move would "publicly show everyone that those in the Muslim community are very keen to integrate and positively contribute to good community relations in the UK".

Mr Davies was due to table a parliamentary petition today praising the Australian proposal and urging British Muslims to fly the flag in the grounds of mosques.

He said: "Everyone has always said about the importance of community cohesion so what better example could there be for Muslims to make clear their loyalty to the UK by flying the Union flag.

"If it is good enough for them to do it in Australia I do not see why it is not good enough for Muslims to do in Britain.

"This action would demonstrate the Muslim community's commitment to the UK and it is a very effective way of countering any negative publicity."

Mr Davies's move follows similar demands in Australia. The former chairman of the Australian Prime Minister's Muslim reference group, Ameer Ali, pushed for the Australian Muslim community to fly the flag outside the nation's mosques as an expression of the Islamic community's "loyalty" and commitment to the country.

It urged Australia's 300,000 Muslims to back the idea as a symbol of "integration" and pride.

One of Australia's most respected female Muslim leaders, Aziza Abdel-Halim, said displaying a national flag outside mosques would not conflict with Islamic teachings.

However some community members opposed the move. And Mr Davies' suggestion has met with caution among Bradford's Muslim communities.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, spokesman for Bradford Council of Mosques, described the suggestion as "grossly insulting".

He said: "We are totally opposed to this kind of tokenistic approach and badly thought-out idea. Muslims would find it grossly insulting and as far as I am concerned we are citizens of this country and it is wrong to question our integrity and commitment to this country.

"Where will it end? Will people want us to wear the Union Jack on our clothing to prove we are loyal."

Molana Fazal Dad, senior Imam of Abu Bakr Mosque in Leeds Road, said he could understand why the suggestion has been made.

But he said: "But he (Philip Davies) will have to think of mosques as a spiritual place rather then something that involves politics.

"In history mosques have never flown any sort of flag because Islam is a religion that covers every nation.

"Personally, I do have my loyalties to being British but a mosque is somewhere where everyone goes. I do not think this is something a lot of people will take well. They will think somebody is ramming something down their throats.

"Most people who attend mosques have their loyalties to the British Government already so they will think this is to satisfy other people's feelings.

"If it went ahead there is nothing stopping us putting a Union Jack up there - we are part and parcel of the country but it is just the beginning of this process that makes people feel they could be having it forced upon them."

Rashid Awan, president of the Pakistan Society of West Yorkshire, warned against the measure saying hatred could still be bred, despite a flag being flown. He said: "It is unthinkable and unwise. To fly the flag does not really resolve the problem and does not constitute loyalty. People could fly the flag but still be being fed the wrong message and breeding hatred inside. We have to win hearts and minds.

"The British Government is doing that to the best of its ability. The Muslim community is loyal to Britain, except a few people. I would not approve this sort of measures - it is undermining the good work of the Government."

He stressed the bombers responsible for the attacks in which 52 people were murdered in London on July 7, 2005, were British-born. Bary Malik, chairman of Ahmadiya Muslim Association said: "Flying the flag is a wonderful thing and can create unity, but mosques are a place of worship and house of God and does not belong to one nation, but every nation.

"To force this would not be right. Mosques need to be left as places of worship."

Additional reporting by JAMES RUSH and KATHIE GRIFFITHS