CAIRO - Sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shiites in Britain is alarming the main umbrella Muslim group in the country following marches and attacks by a number of Salafists against Shiite Muslims.
The Muslim Council of Britain today affirms the unity of Muslims, particularly in the UK, the umbrella group said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
We are a community with plural traditions and viewpoints, but united in our faith in Allah and his last Prophet. This is a view held by the vast majority of British Muslims.
A group of Salafists took to the streets of London on Friday to denounce the Shiite support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
The marchers, led by controversial figure Anjem Choudary, carried banners denouncing Shiites and attacked passersby.
We condemn the antics of Anjem Choudary and his (un)merry-band of publicity seekers who last Friday took to the streets of London to spew their hate-filled message and attack people they thought to be from the Shiite tradition, the MCB said.
We will speak out against anyone fostering division in our community, from whichever quarter it comes from.
We urge the media to be vigilant and refrain from stoking up tensions where they do not exist.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in more than two years of fighting between Assad's security forces and opposition forces.
The fighting has forced more than one million Syrians to flee their home to neighboring countries in addition to the displacement of two millions others inside the country.
Shiite Iran and the Lebanese guerilla group Hizbullah are staunch supporters of Assad's regime.
The umbrella group said that Sunnis and Shiites in Britain are united.
Sunnis and Shiites remain united in the UK and have a long-established history of intra-faith cooperation, it said.
We are acutely aware that the complex situation in the Middle East and Muslim world has the possibility of threatening that tradition.
We are also aware that those from without the community will seek to exploit these divisions for their own nefarious ends.
The MCB appealed to Sunni and Shiite scholars to join hands to fight sectarianism in the country.
We call on our scholars, leaders and institutions from all traditions to stand firm and be vigilant, speak out against sectarianism and ensure the forces of unity prevail, it said.
We should avoid hate and condescending speech and literature in our midst.
Finally we should respect each other and the personalities, places and events that any group among us holds in esteem, abiding by the Islamic manner (adab) of disagreement that is neither inflammatory nor insulting.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.The MCB is Britain's representative Muslim umbrella body with over 400 affiliated national, regional and local organizations, mosques, charities and schools.