Anti-Semitism among UK Muslims 
I have been an active anti-racist campaigner all my adult life, on the streets against the National Front in the 1970s, on the ground in Apartheid South Africa, and right up to now. Since I entered Islam well over three decades ago, one thing that has stuck in my craw is the fact that anti-semitism is rife, endemic, in the Muslim community and is never challenged by Muslims. It exists among old Muslim men and among Muslim school children, among multi-generation families and recent migrants. It exists in every part of the country, but curiously, the more pernicious, caricature, racist forms of anti-semitism are to be found among the communities with least proximity to Jewish communities: Asian more than Arab and far more than Somali, for example; and less marked in parts of North London near well-established Jewish neighbourhoods where Muslim and Jewish institutions share the same streets. Many Muslims are not anti-semitic, but not a single Muslim will stand up and condemn this deep-rooted racism.

Are my experiences the exception? I don't think so. The MuslimsInBritain.org directory provides from a certain perspective, arguably the most complete and accurate record of the impact of the Muslim religion on the UK, and you will see from it many hundreds of masjids where I personally have been, sometimes just passing, but many where I have stayed in the neighbourhood for weeks or months, or visited repeatedly. There is not a single place among them where if any conversation among Muslims turns to obstructions in the way of Muslim progress, be it somebody's career, plans for some new school or mosque project, depiction of Muslims in the media, or obstacles to Muslims getting their way on the world stage, then, if the conversation is among Muslims alone, there will be somebody, old or young, sycophantically moderate or firebrand radical, endowed with postnymical letters like PhD or on first name terms with the local street gangs, someone, who will chip in about how the Jews stitched the matter up, or some similar pejorative reference to the racist caricature of the devious Jew. This is not about masjids especially - the same applies whether it is in the masjid, in a dinner party, at home among relatives, among Muslim students on campus, or most pernicious of all, among pupils in or from a Muslim school. All of these and many more are my and my family's first-hand experience - and as I stated, that experience straddles the country. Lord Nazir Ahmed's outburst about Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels" in connection with his life-terminating mobile phone / driving technique may be among the most crass, but only because it was a prominent "community leader" and rendered on Pakistan TV. The enthusiasm with which Muslims embrace "theories" of Jewish conspiracies - 9/11 an inside job in which 'all the Jews stayed at home that day' (so the long list of Jewish victims is presumably fabricated as well), is simply the grossest example of Muslim dereliction of the powers of reason.

There are a few examples of positive relations, such as the Jamia Shan-e-Islam and its assistance to its neighbour in the street, the Bradford Reformed Synagogue, or the Muswell Hill Synagogue opening its doors to the jama'at of the firebombed Somali Bravanese Al-Rahma masjid. But these are isolated examples, newsworthy because they are so remarkably different to the norm. Fortunately thusfar, there have been no (attributable) direct attacks on Jews by UK Muslims, unlike say, an assault on a Shi'a by a convert "Sunni" in Edgware Road last year (to my knowledge the only reported example of Sunni-Shi'a conflict within the UK so far); or the vigilante-style assaults against women and gays, by convert Muslims again, around Whitechapel. And it is not for want of trying, and synagogues were certainly on the Crawley weedkiller bombers' agenda. Meanwhile, it is only a matter of time before either ISIS or Al Qaeda engineer a violent attack against Jews in the UK, or a local operator performs something similar while looking for kudos among fellow militants. Such an act will use the widespread anti-semitism among Muslims to compromise Muslim condemnation and add more fuel to the bonfire of Muslim aspirations in the West.

The persistence of anti-semitism in the Muslim community shows a profound failure by Muslims on two levels. Firstly, anti-semitism is naked racism. It cannot be excused by any political reference - Israel/Palestine is not a matter that British Jews are responsible for, or able to resolve, any more than British Muslims or British Arabs are. (Yet if Muslims were able to overcome their anti-semitic racism, the scope for dialogue between UK Jews and Muslims to influence Israel/Palestine could be profound.) It cannot be excused by theological arguments: the Messenger of Allah went to the Jews of Yathrib and other towns on the same basis as he went to the Christians and everyone else, "An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, except in taqwa (awe of Allah)" [Bukhari 4:538]. Instead, the historic and the millenarian hadeeth refering to Jews, have been appropriated by militant extremists for their purposes because our inability to challenge anti-semitic racism among ourselves has made us unwilling to teach the theological contexts for these hadeeth.

Anti-semitism is the most toxic of many facets of our racism. I have written in various places about the pervasiveness of racism among Muslims: in broad terms, Arab racism towards Asians, Asian racism towards Africans and African-Caribbeans, tribal exclusiveness among Asian Muslim clans, and selective racism towards converts - when the convert agrees with you, mashallah she is very learned, and when the convert wants to marry your daughter, 'but what will happen when he converts back again?' (when you had her red passport reserved, in your mind, for a second-cousin's son with a green one!). Not long after I myself converted to Islam, among the numerous pamphlets and books passed on to me was a pamphlet about Leopold Weiss, a Jew who converted to Islam as Muhammad Asad and who wrote an exegesis, "The Message of the Qur'an": the pamphlet made derogatory claims about that book, the principle complaint being that its author had been Jewish and was therefore suspect. Anti-semitism is no different to any other form of racism - it is racism and it corrodes the mind of the perpetrator.

The second level in which anti-semitism demonstrates western Muslims' failure is in countering extremism. The Paris supermarket murders brought that into sharp focus. I wrote at the time that ISIS (the supermarket murderer Amédy Coulibaly claimed allegiance to ISIS, the Hebdo attack was claimed by Al Qaeda) cynically and deliberately used the attack to play on Muslim anti-semitism in order to exacerbate tensions between Muslims in the West and non-Muslims: both Al Qaeda and ISIS require Muslims to become disaffected from the West. Because anti-semitism is rife among Muslims, it is a powerful weapon for Al Qaeda and ISIS alike to manipulate; powerful because Muslims have almost no defence against it, and because for anyone not of the neo-fascist and neo-Nazi backside of the European Right, it is an unforgiveable throwback to Europe's most inglorious decade. And, probably not surprisingly, not only do we find "Holocaust deniers" among Muslims in Europe and elsewhere, but we also find a small number of converts to Islam who brought with them and still cling to, the same views of Jews as would have given them comfort in the ranks of the National Front as exposed in Maurice Ludmer's day in Searchlight.

Because anti-semitism is so widespread among the Muslim community, when the media do an exposé of some apparent extremist preacher in some very mainstream mosque in a decaying industrial town, the Muslim community look at each other in perplexity. Management committee shrugs its shoulders and say, 'well we didn't invite him' or 'extremism isn't allowed in our mosque', but among themselves they murmer that they really don't see anything extreme there, it must be a media conspiracy - they were tricked - the words were out of context. When in certain very prominent masjids, the pre-Jumu'ah bayaan, wa'az/wyaaz, non-ceremonial sermon, is delivered by an equally prominent 'alim in Urdu, surely someone must notice how gratuitously derogatory references to the Jews are rendered in the English translation as the 'iniquities of the non-Muslims', or some even more bland version. Yes, someone has noticed, else I would not be able to write this. But is it challenged? Not for a moment; on the contrary, the message plays to an audience who would not accept it any other way. So if Muslims cannot identify and challenge anti-semitic comments among our own, how will we ever be able to isolate and counter those who go further and take our children with them into fitna and violent extremism? The recent BBC/ComRes poll states, "Acts of violence against those who publish images of the Prophet Muhammad (S) can never be justified" yielded between 22 and 27% who disagreed, and 26 to 30% of Muslims who, "have some sympathy for the motives behind the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris", and 42 to 47% who do not believe that, "Muslim clerics who preach that violence against the West can be justified are out of touch with mainstream Muslim opinion." None of the questions on the questionaire explicitly addressed the Jewish supermarket killings, which undermines the value of the questionaire. But it is not unreasonable for anyone reading the results and knowing the extent of Muslim anti-semitism, to extend the possibility of between 220 and 470 Muslims in this poll alone, and potentially therefore a large six-figure number of UK Muslims, to include a significant number of Muslims who would fail to recognise an exhortation to racist violence against Jews as being extreme. This is not the Daily Mail, nor is it Quilliam's partisan agenda. It is the considered opinion of someone who knows the Muslim community intimately across the country, who understands how extremism works, whose only agenda is to promote tolerance and an end to sectarianism between Muslims, not the interests of any particular sect or interpretation. I know very well that the propensity for violence that the cartoon publications stirred, is huge and cuts across generations, including especially the ashiks, lovers of the Prophet (S), who would be the first to condemn extremism, yet whose fury would be deep-throated against those who mock him. Not many people appreciate that difference, so cannot be blamed for interpreting the poll's quantity of tacit support for violence as including the murders of Jews shopping. That is a problem of epic proportions.

What happens when someone does challenge anti-semitism? "Evidence" is produced. Evidence takes the form of earnest recounting of the complex and obscure conspiracies that allowed 9/11 to happen, 7/7 to happen, even the sub-prime banking collapse to happen. Two days after the Paris attacks, the web-board gossip was about those attacks as a 'false flag operation'. I guess that's what happens when reading Al Qaeda's own house-journal's admissions is a criminal offence! But the credulousness of the Muslim community, especially the Asian Muslim community, beggars belief. To allow the 9/11 attacks to take place, half of the entire infrastructure management of the US eastern seaboard must have worked overtime on the conspiracy, and Bin Laden's revelling in his success is so obviously a fake!

Enough of complaining. This website is all about practical action. Two things are required, the same two things as I promoted in my "Problems and Practical Solutions" document (PDF, pages 15 and 23) and my Guide a decade ago:

One: UK Muslims and Jews including those of the most robust and contradictory viewpoints must sit down together and speak their minds frankly; this is not the time for gentle Interfaith or liberal pleasantries.

Why not follow the more normal route of simply ostracising and outlawing the extreme points of view, ridiculing their adherents and demonstrating that they are out of touch with the mainstream? Because these views, which are almost entirely about the status of Israel and Palestine, never have been confined to the margins. Simply labelling them as extremist positions doesn't alter the fact that there are very many people who hold them - the problem is that the viewpoints have never been seriously challenged within their respective communities: at least, among Muslims, there are plenty who justify Palestinian violence by reference to the enormous scale of Israeli-inflicted violence rather than decrying all of it; yet the same people would claim that they don't support political violence, terrorism etc. So instead of marginalising that kind of opinion, it is essential to challenge it in a way that forces all positions to recognise the implications of what they advocate.

There are hard conversations to be had, and it requires people with the bravery to argue in respectful dialogue with their counterparts through reasoned debate, challenging the counter-arguments, rebut and accept rebuttal, until the arguments have been exhausted. People of either side with less polarised views must also be part of the debate, who can test the strengths and validity of their own side's position as much as provide mediation with the counter-view. Polemical argument by its nature usually only succeeds in reinforcing the opinions of each advocate, and his followers go away convinced that they have won the arguments. This must be different - there must be no going away until every strongly held view has been either countered completely and withdrawn, or when both sides understand the substance and validity of the others' position. Recognition of this has to be in public. This is not something to happen in the rarified forum of supposed national leadership. It is something that has to be repeated up and down the land, in places where both parties are numerous and where one party is scarce, until it has touched every masjid, school or gathering of Muslims, and the equivalent for Jews. The debate will cover the politics of Israel and Palestine, the hard issues including people who challenge the very existence of Israel and of Palestine, and the role of support for either side within the UK and elsewhere. It will cover the theology, Jews in the Qur'an, Hadeeth and Muslim history, and Muslims interpretation of these, and corresponding controversial matters from the other side. It will also cover racism and the prevalence of old European anti-semitism tropes among new Muslim anti-semites, forced out until racism is separated from theology and politics, the racism binned and intelligent debate can begin on the politics and the theology. If we can achieve that, the politics and the theology will promise to be stimulating.

Two: Racism among Muslims must be stamped out. There must begin a concerted and co-ordinated campaign against all kinds of racism within the Muslim community and by Muslims against others. Racism is the enemy of Deen. Attacking racism in the past, has been about the isolation and ridicule of groups of people adhering to a specific doctrine such as fascism, or political party which harnesses racism to drive xenophobia and exclusiveness. Muslims are often guilty of exclusiveness, and racism is the product of that, rather than its engine. An anti-racist campaign must be mounted among Muslims, that challenges racist expression whether open or closeted in meeting rooms. And the racism that must be challenged, emphatically must include anti-semitism along with other combinations of supposed racial attributes.

There is much work to be done. It is urgent. Which Muslims are brave enough to stand up against racism among ourselves, and which are prepared to stand up against racist anti-semites?

Comment

[ view entry ] ( 773 views )   |  permalink  |  $star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image$star_image ( 3 / 1759 )

<<First <Back | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Next> Last>>