When I met Baroness Warsi, I told her the Board of Deputies would not work with MEND

Marie van der Zyl says her meeting was not about a rapprochement with 'bad news' organisation

July 31, 2018 15:04

It is rare that the Board of Deputies has reason to find fault with the JC’s generally exemplary journalism.

So, my team and I were surprised to read in last week’s paper that I had met Baroness Warsi with the purpose of beginning a rapprochement with a notorious organisation called MEND – Muslim Engagement and Development. Unusually, the JC seems to have used rather more imagination than fact in its coverage of this meeting.

I agreed to meet Baroness Warsi at the suggestion of the highly respected Community Security Trust chair, Gerald Ronson. Baroness Warsi is one of the most prominent Muslims in British public life and, given his position at the top of our community’s antisemitism watchdog, I always take Mr Ronson’s recommendations seriously.

We discussed many topics on which we agreed, including combating the twin evils of antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate, which I have made a priority for my presidency. But I also took the opportunity to tell the Baroness unequivocally that the Board of Deputies would not work with MEND, as I knew that she had some relationship with them in the past.

MEND is bad news. Current and former MEND representatives have spread hateful and idiotic messages about Jews, including tweets about “Rothschild Jews” and sympathy for the proscribed terrorist organisation Hamas. Sadly, this is not a case of ‘a few bad apples’ in an otherwise decent organisation. Despite these issues being raised, they have shown no sign of remorse or a desire to change.

Many have pointed out the worrying links between MEND and CAGE, an organisation which described the ruthless Daesh executioner Mohammed Emwazi, otherwise known as ‘Jihadi John’ as a “beautiful young man”.

According to a report by HOPE not Hate, CAGE, “regularly hosts numerous Salafi-Islamist preachers”, and “is actively opposed to counter-extremism, counter-radicalisation and counter-terrorism measures”.

It was of little surprise to us that MEND’s Director of Engagement, Azad Ali, went seamlessly in to his new role as Director of Community Relations at CAGE.

On all of this, I agree with Mak Chishty, former Metropolitan Police Commander, when he says: “Without targeting Islamism and naming and shaming Muslim organisations such as CAGE and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), we risk having our safety and security threatened forever.”

As President of the Board of Deputies, I will always take a robust stance on organisations that spread hate against the Jewish community. I am unequivocal that no parliamentarian should ever give MEND the appearance of legitimacy, by appearing at MEND events or participating in their projects. 

I will continue to deliver this vital message to politicians whenever we meet.

Marie van der Zyl is president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

July 31, 2018 15:04

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