Minister warns against Muslim antisemitism in the UK

Baroness Warsi spoke at the event hosted by the Board of Deputies (Photo: Cabinet Office)

Baroness Warsi spoke at the event hosted by the Board of Deputies (Photo: Cabinet Office)

A government minister has spoken out against “antisemitism in the Muslim community” in Britain.

Baroness Warsi, the Minister for Faith and Communities, said that anti-Zionism was often a mask for anti-Jewish hatred.

“I am aware that anti-Israeli sentiment can sometimes be a cover for antisemitism. As the Community Security Trust will tell you, antisemitic attacks spiral in the UK when there is increased unrest in the Middle East.”

But she insisted that it was “absurd” to suggest that criticisms of Israeli policy would “automatically equal to criticisms of Jews”.

Baroness Warsi, who is a Muslim, admitted that the relationship between the Muslim and Jewish communities was “not an easy subject to tackle.”

But she believed that British Muslims should “celebrate” the success of Anglo-Jewry “I would go as far as saying, indeed, emulate it ".

The minister also said Muslims and Jews should unite against the threat posed by far-right movements such as the English Defence League, a nationalist group whose supporters display Israeli flags during anti-Islamist protests.

“There will always be those who use the underlying resentment in the Middle East to play out their own political agendas,” she said.

“I know that, like me, the British Jewish community is disgusted by the use of the Israeli flag at English Defence League rallies.

“We need to be robust when extremists hijack our faith. An attack on one faith, is an attack on all faiths.”

Baroness Warsi was speaking at the launch of an exhibition celebrating Righteous Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust attended by around 50 people

Jonathan Arkush, vice president of the Board, said he thought the minister's remarks “were highly significant.

“They were remarkably frank because she, as a Muslim and a government minister, was accepting that there is some way to go in combating antisemitism in the Muslim community,” he said.

“Baroness Warsi had one ask of the Jewish community - and that is to stand out against the attempts of far right wing bodies. The EDL’s pathetic attempts to gain Jewish support have come a cropper. They’ve totally failed and will continue to fail.”

Laura Marks, the senior vice president of the Board, added: “We hear so much about communities fighting each other, but we need each other in so many ways.

“Our religious practices – whether circumcision or ritual slaughter or even faith schools - need defending. We face challenges when our own community prejudices stand in the way of our strong community ties.”

Commander Mak Chishty, a Muslim police officer, called for more interfaith initiatives to “combat Islamaphobic and antisemitism. They bring communities together and let them know about the historic relationship that does exist”.

The Righteous Muslim Exhibition features the photos and stories of 70 people who were named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

The exhibition, in central London, will be open to organisations, including schools, by appointment for the six weeks.

Last updated: 8:53am, April 19 2013