CAMPAIGNS: What The Media Say - Political hot potato over IAW pledge

Organisation: Islamic Society of Britain

Issue: Launch of Islamic Awareness Week (IAW)

Amid much hand-wringing, the launch of the annual Islamic Awareness Week

on 5 November, for which the public awareness campaign was handled by

Hobsbawm Macaulay, had particularly poignant overtures.

It got off to an inauspicious start when an 'alarmist' (The Independent,

5/11) poll, which appeared in The Sunday Times (4/7), prompted Islamic

academics and intellectuals to call for a greater understanding of the

Muslim faith.

Headlined 'British Muslim support for terror', the poll claimed 40 per

cent of UK Muslims backed Osama bin Laden in his terror campaign against

the US.

Further, the start of IAW heralded the unveiling of a pledge 'towards

improving community relations and a greater understanding of different

faiths' (The Independent, 6/11).

Unfortunately for them, the organisers could never have forecast that

the pledge and the signing of it would have turned into such a political

hot potato.

The Guardian noted that all parties except the Tories had signed the

pledge. The Conservatives denied its decision was to avoid a repeat of

its 'pre-election embarrassment last summer' (The Mirror, 6/11) when

William Hague signed a pledge not to raise race as an issue and then saw

dozens of MPs refusing to follow his lead. The Mirror, among others, was

not convinced.

There was much surprise at the Tories' stance. The Islamic Society of

Britain was disappointed that Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith had not

signed the pledge. Simon Hughes of the Lib Dems said that the pledge

should have received the Tory's support 'this of all years' (The Times,


To much ridicule and in an attempt to redeem the situation, Duncan Smith

claimed he wanted to issue a 'bigger and fuller' (Sky News, 6/11)

statement than the pledge, and repeated his support of the Muslim


Black Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick weighed in and denounced his

party's 'pigheaded' attitude and said whoever was advising them on race

needed a 'good dose of common sense' (The Guardian, 6/11).

Nigel Morris, political correspondent of The Independent, was left with

the final sting in the sorry tale when he let slip that instead of

attending the IAW launch, Duncan Smith had travelled to south Wales 'to

address a conference of evangelical Christians' (6/11).

Analysis and commentary by Echo Research. More information can be found


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