‘Funds crackdown on religious groups’

Remember Ruth Kelly’s threat that the government was considering withdrawing financial aid from organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain and transferring its backing to more amenable outfits like the Sufi Muslim Council? Well Tony Blair pursues the same theme in a speech today at a Downing Street event. Under the headline “Funds crackdown on religious groups”, the Daily Star reports:

“Tony Blair has announced a crackdown on public funding for religious and racial groups as he set out plans to improve community integration. The Prime Minister warned that taxpayers’ cash had been too easily handed out to organisations ‘tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities’. In future they would have to prove they aimed to promote community cohesion and integration, he said.

“‘Very good intentions got the better of us,’ he said in a lecture at Downing Street. ‘We wanted to be hospitable to new groups. We wanted, rightly, to extend a welcome and did so by offering public money to entrench their cultural presence. Money was too often freely awarded to groups that were tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities. In the future, we will assess bids from groups of any ethnicity or any religious denomination, also against a test, where appropriate, of promoting community cohesion and integration.’

“He also ruled out any introduction of Islamic Sharia in the UK and called on mosques that excluded the voice of women to ‘look again at their practices’. The suicide bombings in London on July 7 last year had thrown the whole concept of a multicultural Britain ‘into sharp relief’, the Prime Minister said.”

Daily Star, 8 December 2006

The full text of Blair’s speech can be consulted on the 10 Downing Street website.