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Rishi Sunak, the UK's first Hindu Prime Minister, has warned of the dangers of polarisation and hatred in politics. This follows MP and former deputy leader of the Conservative Party, Lee Anderson's claim that “Islamists” have “got control of London” and of its Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, despite the fact that Khan has frequently spoken out against anti-Semitism and in support of Jewish communities in the UK and been praised by Jewish groups for doing so. Former Conservative Home Secretary and Buddhist, Suella Braverman, ramped up the divisive, anti-Islamic rhetoric still further when she wrote that "Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now" in the UK. It seems that the Conservative Party may have a problem with Islamophobia.
All this comes at a time when Sunak's Minister for Communities, the "proud Christian", Michael Gove, has chosen to withdraw funding from the Interfaith Network, a group that has spent the last 37 years working against polarisation and hatred by bringing together representatives of different faith groups across the UK. His reason is that one of the 18 appointed trustees of the Network is a representative of the Muslim Council of Britain, a body that represents tens of thousands of British Muslims and supports hundreds of charities, including numerous schools and community groups.
Michael Gove's problem with the Muslim Council of Britain seemingly stems from an incident in 2009 when the then Labour government suspended links with the MCB after a former leading member of it is said to have signed a statement in support of the Palestinian group, Hamas, and opposing the actions of the Israeli State. The leadership of the MCB has changed several times since and no longer includes that individual and the Labour party has subsequently renewed its links with the MCB. Is a problematic statement made 15 years ago by an individual member of one organisation sufficient reason to now withdraw funding from an entirely different organisation of which that individual has never been a member and which works to promote peace and understanding between faith communities? Clearly it is not.
Since the UK Government had been the main source of funding for the Interfaith Network, the Network now has no option but to close. Well, OK, it did have the option to remove the representative of the MCB from its board of trustees. Since he has been a valued member of that board for some years and has done absolutely nothing whatsoever to warrant dismissal from it, the Network took the principled decision not to do so. To do otherwise would be to betray the fundamental principles on which the Network is founded.
Given recent events, bringing people of different faiths together has seldom been more important. Attacks on Jews and Muslims in the UK have rocketed since the terrible Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7th and the subsequent Israeli Defence Force invasion of the Gaza Strip.  This despite the fact that Jews and Muslims in the UK are clearly not responsible for either event. Is this really an appropriate time for the UK government to force the closure of the main group who have successfully worked for peace and understanding between faith groups for the last 37 years? The answer must surely be a resounding NO!
I should declare an interest, having organised and taken part in interfaith gatherings and ceremonies since the early 1990s and seen first-hand the good relationships that are forged through them.
As founder of the British Druid Order, I therefore call upon the UK government to immediately restore funding to the Interfaith Network and invite you to do the same through your local MP whose contact details can easily be found online. Write to them today and help get Michael Gove's absurd, unwarranted and divisive decision reversed. Thank you.
Yours in peace,
Philip Shallcrass (Greywolf) /|\