The Chief Rabbi has accused Muslim leaders of deciding to “keep shtum” over antisemitism and lacking the courage to denounce it.
In a speech in Jerusalem on Tuesday, a clearly frustrated Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said some prominent Muslims were so reluctant to engage in dialogue with Jews that they refuse even to appear in a photograph with him.
The Chief Rabbi was supported by Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of the Faith Matters interfaith organisation and Tell Mama, the Islamophobia watchdog.
Mr Mughal said: “The lack of imams tackling antisemitism is more than telling, it is indicative of an unwillingness to talk about an issue that has corroded into the mindset of some parts of Muslim communities.
“Imams talk much about tackling anti-Muslim hate, and rightly so. But by keeping quiet about antisemitism when they come across it, some imams demonstrate a selectiveness that is deeply problematic. Hate of all forms needs to be called out and they need to be speaking up and loudly.”
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi of Reform Judaism and a key leader of interfaith initiatives, said she “completely agreed” with Rabbi Mirvis.
She said: “This is the issue of our generation and we need to work on it together. We need to have multiple initiatives across the board, for strategic, targeted, thoughtful, proactive work together.”
Addressing the Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, Rabbi Mirvis said: “Time and again, when I have established efforts to engage at the highest level, together with global Muslim clerics, at the last moment they have pulled out, have got cold feet.”
He added: “We have to engage with each other, we have to talk. The threat to Judaism and Jews from the world of Islam is one that can only be cured within the world of Islam — and the leaders of Islam have to take a stand.”
So wary of contact with Jews were his Muslim counterparts, he said, that “it appears that some simply just don’t want to be in a photograph together with a Jewish religious leader”.
The Chief Rabbi contrasted this with the progress made in Jewish-Christian relations since the Holocaust. “Now I believe that faith leaders around the world have a responsibility to engage primarily in dialogue with our Muslim colleagues, and, as a national faith leader, I prioritise Jewish-Muslim dialogue.”
Although there have been some achievements, he said, such as the joint condemnation by Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the wake of the terror attack on Westminster a year ago, “the truth is that our journey is a frustrating one — because that, alas, is the exception to the rule.
“The rule today is around the world that Muslim faith leaders are keeping shtum. They are not willing to publicly denounce antisemitism.”
Mohammed Amin, co-chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, expressed “surprise” at the Chief Rabbi’s remarks.
“I myself have not encountered Muslim leaders being reluctant to denounce antisemitism, but accept that Rabbi Mirvis meets many senior Muslims in the UK and elsewhere,” he said.
“I suspect that those who fail to speak up against antisemitism may mistakenly regard condemning antisemitism as somehow giving support to Israel, when there is no logical connection between the two.
“More positively, the Forum’s website shows Rabbi Mirvis being warmly embraced at our tenth anniversary dinner by Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra.”
Laura Marks, co-founder of the Nisa-Nashim Muslim-Jewish women’s group, said: “antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred are both growing, though they manifest themselves very differently.
“However, where the two sets of leaders can agree is that hatred against minority, immigrant groups (and that is both of us) is real and growing on the far-right and affects us all.
“On this, at least, I am finding common ground with our Muslim neighbours — a shared agenda and a starting point for moving forward in unity against the scourge of hatred.”