Fiyaz Mughal

Muslims are frightened of calling out Jew-hate within their own community

Antisemitism within some small sections of Muslims and which remains stubbornly entrenched needs to be taken on and called out repeatedly

May 28, 2020 15:01

At a recent Iftar (fast ending) event for a handful of British Muslims, the President of the Board of Deputies said, “I want you to know that you can count on the solidarity of the Jewish community. I know there is still a lot more work to be done, so that British Muslims can go about their lives without fear or criticism.”

These words and sentiments come from a place of care and I know after years of work supporting better Jewish and Muslim relationships, that much of this sentiment has been one way — from Jews towards Muslims.

As a British Muslim, for two decades I have called on British Muslims to take on those who stifle their voices and create a climate of fear when speaking about antisemitism.

In 2003, as a councillor in Oxford at a time of conflict between Gaza and Israel, I was deeply disturbed how a miniscule Jewish community in Oxford felt fear and a stinging sense of antisemitism, which they said came from Muslims.

I was also disturbed by the constant flaring up of tensions between Muslims and Jews over the Middle East. This was the reason for the creation of Faith Matters, which I ran for 15 years: to create better relations between Muslims and Jews.

So who are those who stifle British Muslims from speaking about antisemitism?

They emanate from small but significant sections of my co-religionists. There are the Islamists, who have hijacked the Palestinian issue and seek to infect British Muslims — who historically have just wanted to get on with their lives peacefully and be able to practise as Muslims — with their views.

There are also the conspiracy merchants, buying into the antisemitic view that Jews are “all powerful” and therefore not to be empathised with, supported or even acknowledged when they are attacked.

There is also a third set of people who have bought into the warped view that “Muslims are globally under attack”. They have the “them an us” worldview, whereby Jewish communities fall into the “them” category.

The genocide against the Rohingya, the mass internment of the Uighurs and a rise in anti-Muslim hatred confirm their wider conspiracy theories and exacerbate them.

If you dare to put your head above the parapet in calling out this type of antisemitism, the social media rumour networks created by these groups will smear you by suggesting that you are either in the “pay of Israel” or that you are “coconuts”, “Zionist shills” or worse still, “Kaffirs” (unbelievers) or “munafiqun” (false Muslims).

I know, since they have been doing it to me for years; I wear that as a badge of honour since it shows how morally regressive these buffoons are.

So how does this culture of fear show itself? In the handful of British Muslims doing the interfaith circuit, backed up by civil servants and government machinery, who say that antisemitism is not acceptable.

Excellent stuff, but we know antisemitism is unacceptable. What they fail to say is that antisemitism within some small sections of their co-religionists and which remains stubbornly entrenched needs to be taken on and called out repeatedly.

There is no point in sugar-coating the message. The fact is that about 25 per cent of antisemitism cases in the UK over the last five years have involved people who may well have been Muslim, according to figures from the Community Security Trust.

As a Muslim, this is not only shocking to me, it shows how this virus of hate remains locked in the minds of some of my co-religionists, some 20 years since I was made aware of it.

Their anti-Israel sentiment regularly turns into antisemitism and when Jews are attacked, I have heard some say “they deserve it” because of Israel’s actions against the Palestinians.

In fact, I say to the President of the Board of Deputies, should it not be a wider range of Muslims who say that the three million Muslims in the UK should stand with the 350,000 British Jews in the UK?

Should it not be them standing outside synagogues with placards showing their defence of Jewish identity in the UK? Should it not be them giving out flowers to British Jews when Islamist extremists carry out scouting operations to harm worshippers in synagogues?

At the heart of it, Islam is not antisemitic. In fact, its very existence is partly because Muhammad sought, and was given, sanctuary in Medina, a town with a Jewish heritage.

I welcome those fellow co-religionists who publicly say that antisemitism needs to be tackled. But words are not enough. We need to be honest; the malaise of antisemitism is damaging some hearts and minds in Muslim communities, and damages Islam itself.

Fiyaz Mughal is the Founder of Faith Matters and was its director from 2005-2020. He is the also the Founder of Muslims Against Antisemitism

May 28, 2020 15:01

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