Labour Member of Parliament Shahid Malik, Britain's first Muslim politician, has said that, in order to combat Islamic terrorism, British Muslims should learn to become proud to be British (though many of them are) and in particular to support the England cricket team - most British Muslims come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, countries in which cricket is the national sport.

Tory MP Norman Tebbit, in the 1980s, said that the best way to tell if a British Muslim is proud to be British is to perform what he called the "cricket test" - if they aren't proud to be British, they would support the Pakistan, India or Bangladesh cricket teams, but if they ARE proud to be British then they'll support England.

Malik also said that British Muslims have the highest standard of living, and more rights and freedoms, thanthose in any other country in the world.....

Muslims should be proud to support England's cricket team, says first Islamic Minister

28th December 2007
Daily Mail

Muslims in Britain have the highest standard of living, and more rights and freedoms, than those in every other country in the world, including those in the rest of Europe and North America, according to Shahid Malik MP

Muslims living in England should be proud to support the national cricket team and should celebrate the country they belong to, Britain's first Muslim Minister said last night.

Shahid Malik issued a call to the Islamic community to embrace, not reject, Englishness as part of their identity.

The International Development Minister said he did not endorse the "cricket test" proposed by former Tory Cabinet Minister Norman Tebbit. But he said he and many of his Muslim friends were enthusiastic fans of England's football and cricket teams.

Fly the flag: Shahid Malik says many British Muslim cricket fans are happy to support England (above right - picture shows British Muslims supporting England, and Pakistanis supporting their country, in an England VS Pakistan cricket game in 2006). Cricket is huge in Pakistan and India and amongst Britain's Pakistani and Indian communities

Muslims living in Britain enjoyed greater freedoms than anywhere in the Islamic world, the MP added.

He said it was "hardly surprising" that extremists did not accept Muslims as English if those minorities did not see themselves in that way.

Mr Malik said: "My message to young Muslims is 'Be proud to be English and don't let anyone steal your identity away. This is one of the greatest nations in the world and we should be proud to live here - let's shout about it a bit more'."

The Labour MP's comments will reignite the debate about what it means to be British, which has been spearheaded by Gordon Brown.

Lord Tebbit once claimed that the true test of an immigrant's loyalty was whether he would support England in a cricket match against his country of origin.

Mr Malik's family roots are in Pakistan, but he was born in Burnley, Lancashire, and he supports England's cricketers against Pakistan. He said: "I find quite a lot of Muslims who are now very enthusiastic supporters of the English football team.

"But supporting a team is not the true test of being English. It's about the country you consider your home, the place where you will raise your kids.

"I'm very proud to support the England football and cricket teams but I don't believe that is the defining element of your national identity."

Mr Malik said in his youth he backed "anyone but England" at sport "because I had a notion of Englishness coloured by what the BNP said".

It was when he visited Scotland and met Asians who wore the kilt and were proud to be Scottish that he embraced Englishness.

He said: "It was a liberating experience - I realised I could be proud to be English."

The MP now holds St George's Day coffee mornings in his constituency to bring together people from all minorities to celebrate a shared English identity.

"Englishness encompasses anyone who has an allegiance to this country, pays their taxes here, considers this their home. If you do these things, you are English," he said.

Mr Malik, who is getting married in the New Year, became the first Muslim member of the Government when he was appointed International Development Minister by Gordon Brown in July.

A former member of the Commission for Racial Equality, he has advised the Government on community issues. One of the four 7/7 suicide bombers was from his Dewsbury constituency.

Mr Malik added last night: "The rights and freedoms we enjoy in England and the UK are better than any other country in the world for Muslims, better than any country in the Islamic world."

The Minister warned it was up to British Muslims to stand up for democracy. "With these freedoms come responsibilities and we all need to speak out more if we see something that is not right, whether it's Islamic extremists or the BNP," he said.