Muslim Council of Britain split over Holocaust Day boycott

The Muslim Council of Britain has refused to say if it will boycott Holocaust Memorial Day for the second year running.

The umbrella organisation attended the commemoration for the first time in 2008 after it voted to end a longstanding boycott following pressure from government. But the MCB did not attend last year in protest at Israel’s military intervention in Gaza.

However, MCB’s high-profile spokesman Inayat Bunglawala has broken with the organisation to say he will attend in his personal capacity.

“I have been in touch with Jewish friends about this and will be honoured to attend the HMD commemoration once again,” he told the JC. Mr Bunglawala previously attended in 2008 when the boycott was lifted.

The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has confirmed that representatives of the MCB have been invited to this year's event.

The issue of attendance at the national HMD commemoration is deeply divisive within the MCB, which for years called for the event to be more inclusive.

The organisation has previously called for the establishment of a Genocide Day and its failure to attend the official event was one of the reasons the government broke off dialogue with it. The MCB last year boycotted all events commemorating the Holocaust in protest at Operation Cast Lead.

As MCB statement said its non-attendance at the event on January 27 should not be viewed as a boycott: “The Secretary General has not received a personal invitation. The MCB has never boycotted the Holocaust Memorial Day and sent representatives to the event previously.

“We have always said this is a tragic event that should not be forgotten. The MCB has also campaigned for a Genocide Memorial Day that will incorporate similar tragedies.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, an organisation sympathetic to the Iranian government, has organised a “Genocide Memorial Day” to mark the anniversary of the Gaza conflict and act as a rival to the official commemoration.

Speakers at the rival “Genocide Memorial Day”, which takes place this weekend in London, will include Lee Jasper, the controversial aide to former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who will speak on behalf of the victims of the slave trade.

He will be joined by Achmad Cassiem, a former inmate at South Africa’s notorious Robben Island prison, and Ahron Cohen of the extremist Orthodox group Neturei Karta.

IHRC spokesman Ahmed Malik said the event was organised to highlight genocide in general and not just the Holocaust. It was not enough, he said, that the official HMD also honours the victims of genocide in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur.

Asked if he considered the Israeli government’s actions against the Palestinians as genocide, Mr Malik said: “The event looks at genocide and genocidal acts.

“There are war crimes or acts that are genocidal, but have not resulted in the same numbers. They still come under the concept of genocide.”

Ed Husain of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation said: “Whatever you think of the actions in Gaza, it is important to respect HMD.

“The memory of the victims of the Holocaust is sacred. How dare an Iranian front group insult the sacred memory of the past?”

Last updated: 4:38pm, January 14 2010