Fiyaz Mughal

Too few of my fellow Muslims stand up to hate

Ministers need to do more to support those who are willing to raise their voices for peace

June 03, 2021 15:02

Three hundred and twenty five antisemitic incidents were recorded by the Community Security Trust (CST) in May 2021, higher even than during the 2014 Gaza conflict. Incidents such as the car convoy shouting about raping Jewish women; the electronic billboard in Golders Green with pictures of the Holocaust and Jewish passers by approached to speak about Israel; and the British Jewish charity Norwood having their website hacked with a Palestinian flag and the words “Free Palestine, End Apartheid”.

The CST said that out of a sample of 236 antisemitic incidents reported in May, about half included descriptions of the perpetrator being of Arab or Middle Eastern appearance. Whilst not an exact science, it provided an indicator as to the demographic that may be involved. I would not be far off, surely, in saying that many of these were probably of Muslim heritage.

CST also reported numerous social media posts containing hostile mentions of British Jewish communities, linked to terminology that included “waging Jihad”, undertaking “resistance” and “supporting the Mujahideen”, with the latter inferring a reference to jihadist fighters. In other words, many making these social media posts were more than likely of Muslim heritage.

And who can forget the assault on a rabbi in Chigwell where two men were charged with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, robbery, and religiously aggravated criminal damage?

As I have repeatedly said in this paper, many British Muslims are not speaking out against such hatred for fear of being ostracised, rejected or targeted on social media. Such has been the backlash that just last week, I wrote about a brazen attack on Mufti Abu Layth by a group of pro-Palestinian supporters who seemed to have been of Pakistani heritage. He had dared to resurrect an idea based in Islam that Muslims should emigrate from regions of conflict to protect their lives; in other words, he was suggesting that Palestinians should leave the region for self preservation. The result was that his windows were broken, his house invaded by people carrying baseball bats and his family threatened.

Last week, Muslims Against Antisemitism, a British charity that I founded in 2018, put out full page advertisements with the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) in a range of national newspapers calling for empathy, civility and care for both communities. It sought to rally the middle ground, protect the values that hold communities together in our country and provide a counter-voice to those of hate and division which are dominating the narrative.

The fact is that not a single British Muslim organisation ran any such campaign with this reach. Nor did they put their heads above the parapet to espouse these basic values. Again, it was left to the few voices of my trustees and I to stand up for the defence of the social space in which people can fundamentally disagree but value, care and even love what the other is about.

I have never seen a situation this bad in over 25 years of my work with Jewish and Muslim communities. Before the recent conflict, I thought nothing could surpass the 2014 impact on British Jewish and Muslim relations as the conflict raged at that time. How wrong I was.

Today, some imams and British Muslim social activists that I have worked with, who have always spoken of the need to care for and empathise with British Jewish communities, now make reference to “no compromise” and call for a “reckoning”.

There are few British Muslims left willing to stand up and publicly call out a pathology that has taken root in small but vocal parts of their various communities.

As I have always said, the vast majority of British Muslims get on with their lives, are productive citizens and are embarrassed and sickened by the tiny minority that espouse hatred, extremism and intolerance.

Wrapped up in all of this are government departments unwilling to support British Muslim voices standing against the grain of hate coming from the vocal and minority section of their communities. I used to call this inactivity “hand-wringing” by civil servants and ministers, but this has become something worse. It has become indifference to the positive voices of those who speak for a better future for Jews and Muslims.

As long as this indifference continues, the voices of hatred will intimidate moderate British Muslims into silence. We are not quite yet at that point — but we are close.

It is time for ministers to get up, take action and actively support the voices of hope over hate within this community.

June 03, 2021 15:02

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