Senior Jewish leaders have attacked the decision to restore relations between the government and the Muslim Council of Britain.
In a strongly-worded letter to John Denham, the Communities Secretary, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council expressed their “deep regret” at his announcement last Friday bringing the MCB in from the cold after asking and receiving assurances of its opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism.
The letter, signed by Board president Vivian Wineman and JLC chair Mick Davis, provides a list of ongoing concerns, including the MCB’s reversion in 2009 to its “deeply offensive” policy of boycotting National Holocaust Memorial Day, its participation and joint-hosting of events “that incite the extreme hatred of Zionists” and its relationship with the Islamist East London Mosque.
It read: “[The] MCB’s current leadership have consistently shown themselves to have a deep-seated ideological Islamist bias that, in our opinion, should not be seen to be promoted in any way by government.
“It is our deep regret that government dialogue now with MCB’s current leadership is likely to weaken those many genuine moderates within the Muslim community.”
Relations were frozen last year after the MCB’s deputy secretary general Daud Abdullah was found to have signed the Istanbul Declaration, which threatened violence against supporters of Israel and British troops.
The Department for Communities and Local Government insisted that Mr Abdullah would have no contact with ministers under the new arrangement.
It said: “In light of the MCB’s letter we do not consider this to be an MCB issue. They have made clear to us that Daud Abdullah signed the statement in question in a personal capacity.
We still have concerns about the uncertainty of Daud Abdullah’s personal position on this issue. Until he is able to provide the clarification that we have always been seeking we will not be engaging with him.”
Meanwhile, Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling refused an invitation to the MCB’s dinner on 22nd February, although Jack Straw and Nick Clegg are expected to attend.
The MCB has still not decided whether to attend next week’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.
However, it reaffirmed its opposition to a change in the law on “universal jurisdiction” to allow Israeli politicians and military figures to visit the UK without fear of arrest.
Foreign Secretary David Miliband presented proposals for the law change to the Cabinet on Tuesday, but an announcement could not be made immediately because of “technical difficulties”, according to a Foreign Office spokeswoman. Government business managers have still to decide on the best way to pass the necessary legislative amendment before they run out of parliamentary time.
In a joint statement, the Board and the JLC said: “The government know that they must act on this. We welcome their confirmation that they are committed to delivering a remedy and are assured that the government will, in due course, relay a specific solution. In the meantime, we will continue to use every available opportunity to maintain the pressure.”