A group of Muslim activists has issued an open letter condemning antisemitic attacks in response to the Gaza crisis.
Addressed to “fellow Muslims”, the group of 18, including imams, businessmen and scholars, wrote that they were “deeply saddened” to hear of assaults on British Jews.
“We unreservedly condemn attacks on innocent British citizens and the desecration of all places of worship.”
They went on: “The ongoing killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces has angered us all. However, this does not, and cannot, justify attacks on our fellow citizens of Jewish faith and background here in Britain.
“Most Muslims are against such behaviour. However, we call on all Muslims to continue to remain vigilant against attempts to bring our own faith and community into disrepute. British Jews should not be held responsible for the actions of the Israeli government.”
The letter, intended to be read in mosques across the UK, comes amid deepening strains in Muslim-Jewish relations.
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, chairman of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis, reported that rabbis were finding their overtures rebuffed. “A number of rabbis with longstanding relations with the local imams have found calls not returned or that they are not prepared to do joint platforms,” he said.
Khola Hasan, a Muslim executive member of the Redbridge Three Faiths Forum in Essex, which recently organised a trip to Israel predominantly for Muslims, said: “The feeling among Muslims is that they don’t see any point in continuing with interfaith dialogue.”
But although experiencing similar feelings initially, she backed dialogue as “the only way forward,” adding that a local rabbi had rung her to say “we feel your pain. That really helped.”
St Ethelburga’s, a Christian centre in the City of London which specialises in interfaith work, convened a meeting on Tuesday for Jews, Muslims and Christians to preserve lines of communication amid the fallout from the Middle East.
Participants included Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, senior rabbi of the Masorti movement, who said: “There is a need for an unqualified statement which simply says we are horrified and pained by the loss of life. The sense of damage between faiths and groups is so enormous that it is crucial to state common moral ground even if it seems obvious. Our failure to do so is a sin.”
Pupils at a Muslim assembly at a top Glasgow school, Hutchesons’ Grammar, were last week asked to raise their hands if they hated Jews.
When a number did, the assembly leader, Asgher Mohammed, a parent, “told them that their anger was misplaced and it was the Israeli army who deserved their anger”.
The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities commented: “It may not have been advisable to approach the subject as he did but Mr Mohammed appears to have been making the entirely correct point that foreign conflicts should not be allowed to create hatred between local communities.”