Golders Green Mosque cancelled Shoah exhibition over Iran fears

The JC understands mosque leaders had been 'frightened about the backlash it was getting'


A mosque in Golders Green, London, cancelled an exhibition on Muslims who saved Jews during the Holocaust over fears that the antisemitic dictatorship in Tehran could take revenge against worshippers’ relatives who live in the Islamic Republic.

The Markaz (Centre for Islamic Enlightening) abandoned plans for the event — organised with local Jewish groups and the help of Israeli Holocaust centre Yad Vashem — after the Iranian regime’s media outlets criticised it for collaborating with “Zionists”.

The JC understands mosque leaders had been “frightened about the backlash it was getting from Iran”.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime is well-known for its brutality towards dissenters, with the accusation of “collaboration with Israel” a standard prelude to detention and torture.

The event, organised with Barnet Multi Faith Forum, leaders from the Markaz, and the Faiths Forum had been due to take place last weekend.

However the mosque faced a boycott, notably from 5Pillars, a Muslim news and opinion site that opposed the exhibition’s ties to Yad Vashem.

5Pillars editor Roshan Salih, who also works for PressTV, which is funded by the Iranian government, objected to the event on Twitter saying: “No to normalisation. Boycott Israel and Israeli institutions.”

On Twitter, PressTV UK described the Holocaust exhibition as “outrageous” and described it as an “‘interfaith’ event with Zionists”.

The story was then picked up by the Islamic Republic’s Mehr News Agency.

Mehr described the event as cooperation with a “Zionist institution”, and described the Markaz as a “Shirazi cult”.

A source close to the event told the JC: “I have no doubt the Markaz were frightened about the attention it was getting from Iran.

“It was worried about implications for its community in Iran.”

The Markaz follows the Shirazi school of Shi’a Islam. It is a minority group in Iran and often disagrees with the regime over issues such as the separation between mosque and state.

One organiser said: “There was a clear pressure on them from Iran to cancel.”

A statement released by the mosque, which opened in 2017, said it had decided to cancel because it “didn’t know of the international connections” that some of the organisations involved had.

The mosque said once it learned that the exhibition had links to Yad Vashem “the event was cancelled”.

However according to a source close to the event, the Markaz “always knew” that the exhibition had links to Yad Vashem.

They said: “There have been various emails and meetings in person about it so they would have known. It is a shame they have been intimidated into cancelling.”

David Toube, policy director of anti-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation, said he was not surprised the mosque cancelled the event.

In a blog post for Quilliam, he said: “Given the long history of persecution of Shi’a who follow the Shirazi School, and the family connections of many at the Markaz have in Iran, it is not difficult to see why they chose that route.”

He added: “A Shi’a group which sought to celebrate and commemorate the heroism of Muslims who protected Jews during the Holocaust was bullied and threatened by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its cheerleaders out of doing so.”

Rabbi Natan Levy, head of operations with the event’s co-organisers Faiths Forum, said it “will continue to focus on building local relations even though this event has been cancelled”.

Yad Vashem criticised “external pressures” which led to the cancellation of the event, insisting it is a “non-political institution”.

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