The Muslim Council of Britain has backed opposition to marriage equality for gays, calling equality an ‘unnecessary and unhelpful’ exercise.

The group also voiced its support for the Church of England the Roman Catholic Church leaders who have spoken out against marriage equality for gay couples, referring to the column by Cardinal Keith O’Brien in which he called the plans “grotesque” and the Catholic Archbishops’ letter which told Catholics they had a “duty” to oppose marriage equality for gays.

The Council, which has 500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques, charities and schools, is reacting to the government’s proposals for equal marriage for gay couples published in a consultation last week.

Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, said: “Whilst we remain opposed to all forms of discrimination – including homophobia – redefining the meaning of marriage is in our opinion unnecessary and unhelpful.

“With the advent of civil partnerships, both homosexual and heterosexual couples now have equal rights in the eyes of the law. Therefore, in our view the case to change the definition of marriage, as accepted throughout time and across cultures, is strikingly weak.”

He added: “Like other Abrahamic faiths, marriage in Islam is defined as a union between a man and a woman. So while, the state has accommodated for gay couples, such unions will not be blessed as marriage by the Islamic institutions.”

The Council also said it “agreed with sentiments expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury (in his recent address to the Council of Churches in Geneva), and by two senior Catholic leaders, Archbishop Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Peter Smith, in a letter read out to Catholic congregations, backed up by Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s recent letter to the Sunday Telegraph, in support of traditional marriage.”

Homophobic comments made by senior religious figures so far in the debate have been described as belonging in the “Dark Ages” by equalities minister Lynne Featherstone.

Lord Singh of the Network of Sikh Organisations told Radio 4’s Today programme marriage equality was an “attempt by a vocal, secular minority to attack religion.”

“We have total respect for gays and lesbians and we are delighted that there is a Civil Partnership Act. We believe that this gives gays and lesbians everything they need.”