Here’s a little thought experiment for you to try.
Suppose a synagogue wanted to hold an exhibition commemorating, say, co-existence between Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain.
Suppose a group of Jews who objected to anything showing Muslims in a good light intimidated the organisers of the exhibition into dropping it, threatening them with violence if it went ahead.
There would be a huge outcry by the wider Jewish community at such behaviour. It would almost certainly make the national papers which would be delighted to show Jewish “extremists” in such a bad light.
Yet when the reverse happens the reaction is… silence.
When Golders Green Hippodrome was turned into a mosque in 2017, the Jewish community voiced initial concerns. These were largely dissipated when it emerged that the mosque, called the Markaz or Centre for Islamic Enlightening, was run by a Shia sect that follows Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Hussaini Shirazi.
The Shirazi are opposed to the Iranian theocratic regime on the grounds that there should be separation between mosque and state. As a result of this conflict, writes the counter-extremist researcher David Toube on the Quilliam website, the followers of the Shirazi school have been persecuted and its leaders arrested.
The Markaz has gone to some lengths to display neighbourliness and friendship towards the Jewish community. Its Jewish supporters say its leaders have a strong history of interfaith co-existence, have generally steered away from politics and have denounced jihadi groups.
On the other hand, its Jewish critics say that some members of the ultra-conservative Shirazi sect have in the past expressed hostility towards Britain, while at its previous premises the mosque’s community centre hosted speakers who have claimed that Isis was created by Israeli intelligence and that the Jews control global financial markets.
Nevertheless, the Markaz planned to host a travelling exhibition created by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. This highlights the Albanian Muslims who defied their Nazi occupiers during the Holocaust to offer protection not just to their Jewish neighbours but also to Jews who had arrived in Albania and faced deportation to the camps.
The exhibition was to be brought to the Markaz by Rabbi Natan Levy, head of operations for the Faiths Forum and a noted interfaith activist.
But then the Iranian regime and its apologists got to to work. Roshan Salih, editor of the British Muslim news site 5 Pillars, urged a boycott of the Markaz for collaborating with “Zionists” because Yad Vashem was an Israeli institution. “No to any kind of normalisation with Israel,” he declared.
Iran’s Press TV denounced the exhibition as “outrageous” and as an “‘interfaith’ event with Zionists”. It complained that the mosque’s “interfaith” activities with pro-Israel groups were normalising Zionism within the British Muslim community and thus weakening the Palestinian cause.
The big guns arrived when Iran’s Mehr news agency described the event as cooperation with a “Zionist institution” and termed the Markaz a “Shirazi cult”. At that point, the reaction ratcheted up from nuisance to danger. As the JC reported, the Markaz leaders were frightened by this backlash from Iran, fearing the regime could take revenge against members’ relatives who live there.
In other words, this event was cancelled as a result of Islamist intimidation in London.
But from the mainstream media, there wasn’t a peep of protest.
There was no criticism of Islamists, of course, through the usual hang-ups about being called Islamophobic or getting killed (whichever holds the greater terror).
No outrage at the world’s most lethal, antisemitic and openly genocidal regime being able to dictate events in the heavily Jewish district of Golders Green.
From those newspapers which were so quick to denounce Jewish opponents of the Markaz as “Islamophobic” extremists, no outcry at these egregious expressions of the Muslim antisemitism which is epidemic in the Islamic world.
As for the Markaz itself, having extended a hand of friendship to the Jewish community it caved under pressure. While understandable, this is an all-too familiar story. Whether through fear, indifference or tacit support for Islamic extremism, the Muslim world continues to allow its most radical and murderous wing to dominate and define it.
At the same time, the wider community’s lack of interest in what happened at the Markaz means that once again Britain has left Muslim victims of Islamist terror hanging out to dry.
Once again, the Islamic jihad has been met by silent, spineless acquiescence from all sides.
This is how it wins.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times