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The government's duty to all its citizens is to give them the freedom ...
The government's duty to all its citizens is to give them the freedom

to practise their own faith, Home Office minister Fiona Mactaggart


Speaking at an Eid celebration last week, Ms Mactaggart said that

it is neither the government's role, nor intention to dictate to

British people how and when they should express their religious


Ms Mactaggart said:

'In Britain we have a proud tradition of supporting free speech and

allowing people to follow their own beliefs. The British way is to

support religious freedom. It is tolerant and adaptable. Britishness

today is not homogeneous. It is evolving and is as rich as the

different people in Britain. British Muslims have consistently shown

how it is possible to be British, Muslim and proud.

'Throughout the country, Muslims, with their strong commitment to

community development, and with enterprise and dedication, are

playing a vital role in building a strong and vibrant society.

'There has been a long running controversy in France both within the

state education system and nationally about symbols and the role of

faith in a secular society. This is a debate we had a long time ago,

and with our very different traditions and with sensitivity displayed

by all faiths, we have been able to find within our own culture a way

of celebrating diversity without controversy. For example a British

woman can wear the hijab comfortably in public or in a school. That

diversity is something that as a Government we value and why we are

developing work on inter-faith dialogue and the importance of

understanding of each others cultures and respect for one another's

traditions and values.'

She also spoke of the duty everyone has in eliminating

discrimination and bigotry in the UK. She said:

'The key to fighting prejudice is to build understanding. One concept

which has caused some misunderstanding is that of fundamentalism. I

respect the faith of others and understand that many people of faith

hold firmly to all the fundamentals of their faiths and would

therefore see themselves as 'fundamentalists'. But we need to

distinguish between such people - the vast majority - and the small

number of those whose misinterpretation of such faith leads them into

extremism, intolerance and therefore into beliefs and action which

are unacceptable to all faiths.

'The fact that extremism seeks to exploit religion and increase

alienation in communities is of concern to us all. We must all work

together to undermine the efforts of extremists because they harm all

society, not just the minority groups they target or claim to


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