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Huff Post blog: Anti-Semitism? Not at our dinner table

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You can read this on my Huff Post blog here

When news broke that Lord Ahmed had allegedly blamed Jews for his 12-week stint behind ‎bars for killing a man through reckless driving, I tweeted my disgust with his blatant expression ‎of prejudice. Many Muslims echoed my sentiments. ‎

That’s why Mehdi Hasan latest blog “The sorry truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has ‎infected the British Muslim community” has left me feeling uncomfortable. ‎
A critical factor in Lord Ahmed’s statement was his audience. Speaking in Pakistan where ‎radical groups regularly peddle anti-semitic libel, he thought his words would find resonance. ‎Do I think he would have made that same statement to a British Muslim audience , even if he ‎thought the cameras weren’t watching? No I don’t. Because regardless of the anti-Semitism of ‎certain elements among British Muslims, anti-Semitic discourse is not considered acceptable ‎and does not routinely go unchallenged.‎

On one hand, Mehdi is absolutely right to point out that anti-Semitic attitudes are not ‎uncommon in Muslim circles and have become somewhat normalised, concealing the ugly face ‎of hate behind objections to Israeli policies and spurious claims of Jewish conspiracies. The ‎Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the stumbling block in much Jewish-Muslim dialogue. As one ‎interfaith activist told me, “we’re fine as long as we steer away from Middle East politics.” The ‎single biggest issue which fosters animosity towards Jews, whom some erroneously fail to ‎distinguish from expansionist Israelis, is the Israel Palestine conflict. This doesn’t make the ‎intolerance any less inexcusable of course. The other significant factor fostering anti-Semitism ‎is conspiracy theories, an unfortunate import from many Muslim majority countries, where ‎opaque and autocratic governing structures lend themselves to an unhealthy fixation with the ‎machinations of “dark forces”. Both tensions over the Middle East conflict, as well as conspiracy ‎theories go some way towards explaining the existence of anti-Semitic attitudes. They ‎certainly don’t excuse them. ‎

On the other hand, I do not see such views as being tolerated, considered acceptable or even ‎being ignored – on the few occasions I have witnessed anti-Jewish sentiment, I have seen it ‎robustly challenged usually by the “mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims” Mehdi ‎refers to. That said, I’ve also witnessed an elderly Muslim man remonstrating an over-zealous ‎youth by reminding him that our forefather Prophet Abraham, whom we praise alongside ‎Prophet Mohamed in all five of our daily prayers, was the Patriarch of the Jewish people. So while I support Mehdi for ‎taking a stand against anti-semitism and urging Muslims to be as diligent in denouncing it as ‎they are islamophobia, I reject the presumed community complicity implied by his reference to ‎‎”our dirty little secret”. ‎

It’s disheartening to hear Mehdi’s been witness to so much anti-semitism, but it is important to ‎recognise that his, like mine, is just one experience amongst many. More reliable indicators of ‎Muslim-Jewish relations are the sheer number of cooperative initiatives and evidence of ‎mutual solidarity. In 2009, following the Israeli onslaught against Gaza, British Muslims rallied ‎together to denounce anti-Semitic attacks amid fears of a backlash against Jewish communities ‎in Britain. In March last year when Mohamed Merah opened fire on a Jewish school in ‎Toulouse, killing seven, Jews and Muslims marched together in a show of solidarity against ‎hate. The Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders regularly brings together over 70 ‎religious leaders as part of an effort to develop good Muslim-Jewish relations across Europe. ‎Such displays of camaraderie are not anomalous. ‎
Mehdi’s presumption of group guilt undermines the valuable work being done by many ‎interfaith groups – the MUJU Comedy Crew, the Joseph Interfaith Foundation and the Three ‎Faiths Foundation, among others – in recognition of our shared heritage. It also unfairly tares ‎the vast majority of Muslims who do in fact reject anti-Semitism and who risk henceforth being ‎viewed with suspicion. ‎

‎ Commenting on a Gallup poll which showed that in the US, the single most powerful predictor ‎of “a great deal” of prejudice toward Muslims is equivalent negative bias toward Jews, James ‎Carroll wrote: “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are halves of the same walnut. That is ‎surprising because Jews and Muslims are widely perceived–and often perceive themselves–as ‎antagonists occupying opposite poles in the great contemporary clash of cultures.” The reality ‎is that Jews and Muslims share the same struggle against intolerance and prejudice and many ‎are united in opposing regressive legislation which affects the practice of rituals central to both ‎faiths.‎

When Baroness Warsi stated that islamophobia had “passed the dinner-table test” in Britain, ‎she referred to the way in which anti-Muslim sentiment is increasingly perceived as normal. It ‎is a misnomer to argue that anti-Semitism has passed the same threshold in the British Muslim ‎community. Any intolerance is too much intolerance and so I applaud Mehdi for highlighting ‎the critical importance of standing against bigotry in all its forms. I just hope his somewhat rash ‎generalisations won’t be used to validate anti-Muslim prejudice, and we can all move beyond ‎notions of ‘the other’, in order to find ways to work towards the common good.‎

Written by Myriam Francois

March 23, 2013 at 14:20

9 Responses

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  1. Was Abraham a Jew?
    ”Abraham was not a Jew, nor a Christian; but he was one pure of faith and Muslim (who submitted to God with a sound heart). He was never of those who associate partners with God” 3:67 Holy Quran


    March 23, 2013 at 14:46

    • the Patriarch of the Jewish people to be correct, although i was quoting someone else to be fair 🙂


      March 23, 2013 at 14:54

  2. السلام عليكم و رحمة الله I hope you are doing well Allah gives you more strength and power Look after yourself Regards

    Amir Saedi

    Sent from my iPhone


    March 23, 2013 at 15:35

  3. Is it true, though? He’s been the object of bogus allegations in the past:


    March 24, 2013 at 09:19

    • the video is on the times website and those who speak Urdu seem to think it is pretty clear cut – though it must be stressed he is still under investigation.


      March 26, 2013 at 11:25

  4. Great piece about actual relationship between Jews and Muslims. As a Jew, I’ve always felt close to Muslims who I consider my cousins.
    As with any groups of people, there are always extremist elements which are usually noisier than the more moderate majority.

    The only part I would criticise is where you say:”A critical factor in Lord Ahmed’s statement was his audience”. Anti-semitism or to a larger extent racism and all forms of hate speech are ugly regardless of the audience.
    In addition, I would not expect an educated man, who sits in the House of Lords and potentially makes far reaching decision to uphold the beliefs of a Jewish worldwide conspiracy. Regardless of his audience, regardless of the language he was using (I believe he was giving his speech in Urdu), regardless of where he was at that time.

    Raphael (rafrafuk)


    March 24, 2013 at 18:54

    • Thanks Raphael, just to clarify, i don’t think explaining why Lord Ahmed felt his comments would be better received in Pakistan than they would be here was in any way an attempt to excuse his actions – it was just to place them in some context – in other words, why did he think making such a statement would be audible in the first place? as I hope to have also stressed, that doesn’t make them, or any such comments, any less abhorrent. thanks for taking the time to post.


      March 26, 2013 at 11:24

  5. another insightful article highlighting the problems of Anti-Semitism but also the ways in which organisations are working to eradicate it and how it isn’t as commonas Islamaphobia


    March 25, 2013 at 15:49

  6. Assalamu Alaikum. Myriam, having lived for many years in the US and now living in UAE, the prevalence of antisemitism among Muslims can vary broadly based on where you live and the social circles you associate with, either voluntarily or otherwise (family calls).
    Based on my experience I have seen quite a strong antisemitic bias but it is more out of technological, political and economical embarrassment rather than against their origins which are closely related to ours as you pointed out. Sometimes your most hated foe are your own brothers.

    Saleh Harharah

    July 16, 2013 at 09:34

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