Tory minister sparks anger after meeting Muslim Council of Britain

Penny Mordaunt confirmed meeting new general secretary despite 'non-engagement' policy for ministers


Secretary of State for Defence The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP

A Conservative minister’s meeting with new general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain has sparked anger.

Former Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt tweeted about her meeting with Zara Mohammed last Friday and added she was looking “forward to working with her”.

The MCB – which claims to be the UK’s “national representative Muslim body” - has been at the centre of several controversies.

The Labour government broke off all ties with the MCB in 2009, although Communities Secretary John Denham did meet them in 2010. After the coalition took office in 2010 Conservative ministers reimposed the boycott, which was confirmed in 2015 as government policy.

The MCB has also been criticised for not representing the full spectrum of opinions across Muslim communities.  

A “non-engagement” policy for ministers towards the group has existed since 2009.

The JC understands that both Downing Street and the Home Office were angry over the Paymaster General’s decision to meet with the group last week.

She tweeted: “Great to have met with Zara today, to wish her success and hear more about her plans, look forward to working with her.”

A government spokesperson confirmed: “The UK government has a long standing policy of not engaging with the MCB and that has not changed.”

Sources say Ms Mordaunt insisted she met the MCB “in her capacity as a constituency MP”. But other Whitehall insiders said it was not possible to separate being a minister and an MP.

An MCB spokesperson told The Sun newspaper: "Our door always remains open to anyone who wishes to work with us.

"It is for the government to confirm if and why they are pursuing a policy of non-engagement with the Muslim Council of Britain. If they are, the question arises whether similar faith-based, democratic bodies are excluded in this way.

"The election of Zara Mohammed - the youngest and first woman Secretary General of the MCB - represents an opportunity for both the MCB and the government to come together and discuss areas where we could work together for the common good. We were delighted that Penny Mordaunt did exactly that."

Dr Alan Mendoza of the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, called the meeting “shocking”.

In February 2009 the MCB’s deputy secretary-general, Daud Abdullah,  signed a statement that  supported Hamas and celebrated its "victory" against "this malicious Jewish Zionist war over Gaza".

This story has been updated. An earlier version implied the non-engagement was a continuing process.



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