Indian Muslims in Britain criticise invite to Modi

London, Sep 5 (IANS) Indian-origin Muslims in the UK have come out in criticism of Labour leader Barry Gardiner, MP from Brent North, for inviting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to speak on "The Future of Modern India" in the British parliament.

However, Gardiner, who is the chairman of Labour Friends of India, said his assessment in inviting Modi to speak in Britain was that "he is a hugely important figure in Indian politics", the Asian Lite newspaper reported.

The Council of Indian Muslims (UK) has said that by extending this invitation, British politicians have committed a "blunder".

"This move will encourage extremism in India, will set a dangerous precedent in British politics and will go down in history as yet another shameful blunder by British politicians - and by the British government if a visa is issued to Modi," Munaf Zeena, chairman of the Council of Indian Muslims (UK), said.

Zeena said the "viciousness and barbarism" that marked the Gujarat riots of 2002 make the riots among the worst human rights violations in recent history.

Over 2,000 people were killed, countless others wounded, and over 150,000 displaced from their homes.

The Muslim forum, in a letter to Gardiner, stated its objections to Modi's politics concern his "fascist traits in politics and government, not his personal lifestyle, which incidentally is also not above board".

"Modi has refused to condemn the attack on Muslims; he has instead focused his efforts on denying relief and assistance to the victims," Zeena said.

"He has polarised Gujarati and Indian society along religious lines, leading to social and commercial boycott of Muslims, walls separating Muslim and Hindu areas in cities and towns and 'Muslim-free' villages," Zeena said.

"There are still tens of thousands of the displaced during 2002 living in shanty towns and temporary refugee camps too afraid to return to their homes and villages," he added.

However, Gardiner said that Modi was already the main leader of the opposition in India.

"He (Modi) is already main 'leader of the opposition' and depending on the outcome of next year's (Indian general) elections he could become the prime minister of India," Gardiner said justifying the move.

"At the very least, he will continue to be a dominant influence on India's future direction one way or another. Britain has good relations with India and our trade and education links are strong and growing," he said.

"It is therefore in my view entirely appropriate that British politicians and leaders of the Indian community in the UK should have an interest in what he has to say about the future direction of his country."

However, the Muslim forum doesn't seem to buy this argument and has pointed out that Modi is "not the leader of the opposition".

According to the forum, Modi is "not as popular as you have been told".

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