British Muslims are to boycott this week's commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz because they claim it is not racially inclusive and does not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict.
Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has written to Charles Clarke, the home secretary, saying the body will not attend the event unless it includes the "holocaust" of the Palestinian intifada.
He said similar events held in other European countries was an "inclusive day" that commemorated deaths in Palestine, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, as well as the former Nazi death camps.
"We wrote to the Home Office three or four weeks ago. We said the issue of the Holocaust is not really the concern. But we have now expressed our unwillingness to attend the ceremony because it excludes ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world and in the occupied territories of Palestine," he said.
Home Office officials have told the council, which represents more than 350 Muslim organisations, that they are considering the request. But officials have no plans to broaden the remit of the occasion because they fear it would infuriate the Jewish community.
The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Tony Blair will attend the ceremony in Westminster Hall this Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps, in which more than 6m Jews were exterminated.
More than 600 Holocaust survivors living in Britain, together with British soldiers who helped liberate the Bergen-Belsen death camp, will be at the event. Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Prince Edward will fly to Poland for a ceremony at Auschwitz.
This weekend the boycott by the leaders of Britain's 1.2m Muslims was condemned by Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr. "I'm proud to be a Muslim. But if people are boycotting this then I think it's a mistake. People who were exterminated in the Holocaust were not just Jews. There were Romany gypsies as well. Anybody who is interested in human rights should support this remembrance."
The boycott is an embarrassment for Clarke, who as the cabinet minister responsible for "faith communities" is the event¹s official host. It has also angered the Jewish community, which sees it as a snub to the memories of Holocaust victims and to survivors.
Blair said: "It is our hope that Holocaust Memorial Day will provide a focus for reflecting on that tragic event, and on our shared and individual responsibility to work for a more just and tolerant world."