Board of Deputies President tells of support for a 'definition for anti-Muslim hatred'

Marie van der Zyl pledges to consult with 'communal colleagues' over definition and says Conservative Party 'also has to address' issue of Islamophobia


The President of the Board of Deputies has spoken of her support for a “definition for anti-Muslim hatred”, adding “that is something the Conservative Party also has to address.”

Marie van der Zyl made her thoughts clear on the issue after being questioned on why the Board had not officially supported calls from British Muslims for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia in the Tory Party.

Speaking at Sunday’s Board plenary meeting she said: "We all support a definition for anti-Muslim hatred because that is something the Conservative Party also have to address.

“We know there are several definitions that are being proposed and once there is a clear definition it is my intention to consult with my other communal colleagues – the CST and the JLC – so that we respond jointly as a community,  which I think is the most responsible way to act.”

Anthony Adler, a deputy from St Albans Masorti Synagogue, had earlier raised concern over an alleged “silence” from the Board in responding to allegations of Islamophobia amongst Conservatives.

Mr Adler also raised the “likely” prospect of the UK’s next Prime Minister being “Michael Gove or Boris Johnson” and how this would be viewed by British Muslims.  

He also suggested that Ms van der Zyl had assured him that the Board could not support calls for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia among the Tories until there was a definition of Islamophobia.

Mr Adler pointed to the new working definition on Islamophobia proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary group on British Muslims and accepted by Labour, but not the Tory Party.

Ms van der Zyl responded saying: "At the Board of Deputies we oppose all forms of racism.

“I have continued throughout my presidency and when I was a vice president to call out hatred towards Muslims. I’m very opposed to any form of anti-Muslim hatred.

“One of my first acts with the Chief Rabbi was to host an Iftar and I have spent a lot of time going up and down the country into mosques to try and have a better relationship with the Muslim community because it is very important to bear in mind all those things we have in common.

“I particularly found this in my work with the coroners because we  jointly tackled the issues that we were facing.

“As Jews we cannot defeat antisemitism alone. We need to stand with other minority communities.”

Ms van der Zyl added: "I want to reassure everybody here we need to play our part to ensure there is no anti-Muslim hatred and that is something we all have a responsibility towards.

“So I very much support the question and thank you for that question.”

During Sunday’s meeting, Malvyn Benjamin, of Hendon United Synagogue, openly praised the JC for defending the community and taking up the fight against Labour antisemitism.

Earlier Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, had addressed the meeting, praising the Jewish state’s continuing successes, particularly in the field of culture and entertainment.

Labour’s Louise Ellman also addressed delegates, urging the Board to take an active role in any investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into antisemitism within her party.

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