‘Poi­sonous non­sense’ of ‘toxic’ IHRC

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY FIYAZ MUGHAL

THE IS­LAMIC Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion is host­ing a con­fer­ence on 8 De­cem­ber in Kings Cross, ‘Is­lam­o­pho­bia and Si­lenc­ing Crit­i­cism of Is­rael’. The short de­scrip­tion of the event says, “Given the racist na­ture of Zion­ism, this mar­riage be­tween the far right and Zion­ist ac­tivists was in­evitable.”

The state­ment war­rants a dis­sec­tion of its toxic nar­ra­tives.

The term ‘Zion­ism’ has many mean­ings to Jewish com­mu­ni­ties. There is left and right-wing Zion­ism and there are var­i­ous in­ter­pre­ta­tions of what it means for Jews. For some, it means so­ci­etal equal­ity and na­tion build­ing — the ini­tial driver for Jews who built Is­rael. For oth­ers, it means de­fence of Is­rael, eco­nom­i­cally, cul­tur­ally and mil­i­tar­ily, whilst for some it means de­fence of the state of Is­rael through oc­cu­pa­tion and ex­tended bor­ders.

It is not a static word, just as lan­guage is not static. How­ever, to the IHRC this term has, for years, been used as a means to play off Mus­lim au­di­ences and to fo­ment di­vi­sion.

Yet in­sid­i­ous and di­vi­sive text fol­lows this sen­tence: “ProIs­rael ad­vo­cates see an over­lap be­tween their ha­tred of the Arabs whom they wish to dis­place in Pales­tine with the far-right’s ha­tred of Mus­lims. It is why you see EDL mem­bers at­tend pro-Is­rael events to deny the right of Pales­tinian self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and why you can see Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion plac­ards flown at events where far-right racists shout ‘Al­lah is a Peado’ and ‘Mus­lims rape our chil­dren’.” This year’s Al Quds Day rally, or­gan­ised by the Is­lamic Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (IHRC)

Jewish sup­port for far right is min­i­mal’

The state­ment sug­gests that the vast ma­jor­ity of Jews, who will be proIs­rael ad­vo­cates, are drawn to­wards far-right groups. The au­dac­ity and blan­ket stereo­typ­ing of this state­ment takes no ac­count how all of the main­stream rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jewish groups, who are pro-Is­rael, have open-

ly and vig­or­ously chal­lenged far right anti-Mus­lim big­ots for years.

And to sug­gest that the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion speaks for all British Jews is like sug­gest­ing that one Mus­lim group speaks for all Mus­lims. This is twisted and child­like com­men­tary but it is de­lib­er­ate and aimed at play­ing to ig­no­rance, fear and di­vi­sion.

It has to be asked why the IHRC has failed to men­tion the ac­tiv­i­ties of lead­ing Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions who rep­re­sent the main­stream of British Jewry and who are stand­ing up against anti-Mus­lim big­otry.

Con­versely, has the IHRC re­leased any pos­i­tive state­ments about the ac­tions of these Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions who have con­sis­tently stood up against anti-Mus­lim big­otry? No.

It suits this or­gan­i­sa­tion to punch the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor with its sup­port base — and that means vil­i­fy­ing Is­rael.

The real­ity is that sup­port for far­right groups within Jewish com­mu­ni­ties is min­i­mal — and Jewish com­mu­ni­ties openly chal­lenge ex­trem­ism, ha­tred and in­tol­er­ance, in­clud­ing when it is tar­geted against Mus­lims.

On many oc­ca­sions, the IHRC has shouted against the ‘pi­geon-hol­ing’ of Mus­lims after ter­ror­ist at­tacks — and rightly so. Mus­lims as a whole can­not be held to ac­count for the ac­tions of Ji­hadi-inpsired co-re­li­gion­ists. Yet, per­versely, this same group pi­geon holes Jewish com­mu­ni­ties as though ‘they all think the same’, if they are proIs­rael. This sim­plis­tic, Trump-like po­si­tion is not only in­flam­ma­tory, it needs to be chal­lenged ev­ery time it rears its viper­ous head.

Yet if Trump made a sim­i­lar state­ment in re­verse, that many Mus­lims who are pro-Iran, for ex­am­ple, are nat­u­rally an­ti­semitic, I can bet that the IHRC would be the first or­gan­i­sa­tion to shout out ‘Is­lam­o­pho­bia’. Yet, they are happy to push out this poi­sonous non­sense.

No-one is deny­ing that Is­rael is lo­cated in a re­gion where hu­man rights are of­ten se­condary to se­cu­rity and this in­cludes sur­round­ing Arab ma­jor­ity coun­tries. No-one can also deny that the oc­cu­pa­tion of the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries has af­fected Pales­tinian so­ci­ety at ev­ery facet and within

vir­tu­ally ev­ery fam­ily. These are is­sues that can­not be washed away. Yet the method by which the IHRC uses the Pales­tinian is­sue to whip up di­vi­sive­ness and reach out to peo­ple who have a deeply po­larised po­si­tion is trou­bling and deeply di­vi­sive.

The hi­jack­ing of the Pales­tinian cause by Is­lamist groups in the UK has been in­sid­i­ous. In the 1970s and early 80s, many of the most vo­cal sup­port­ers and demon­stra­tors for a Pales­tinian state were non-Mus­lim. Fast for­ward to be­yond 2000 and some of the main or­gan­is­ers of demon­stra­tions for a ‘free Pales­tine’ were Is­lamist groups.

We have un­der-es­ti­mated the acu­men and en­ergy of Is­lamist groups and how they use key cam­paign­ing top­ics as a way to fun­nel in young minds into their ac­tivism. The last thing we need is groups like the IHRC tak­ing the is­sue of Pales­tine and lump­ing it into a de­bate around ‘Is­lam­o­pho­bia’. Pales­tine is not an ‘Is­lamic’ or re­li­gious is­sue, nor do Pales­tini­ans need to be seen through the prism of a re­li­gious strug­gle. Theirs is a right to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion and it is time that British Mus­lims stood up and re­sisted mak­ing Pales­tine a re­li­gious cause cele­bre.

For those look­ing to chal­lenge an­tiMus­lim hate or Is­lam­o­pho­bia, I pose the fol­low­ing ques­tions.

Do you want to help en­sure that non-Mus­lims also step up to chal­lenge anti-Mus­lim big­otry? Or will you be part of the prob­lem?

Do you be­lieve that the IHRC’s cam­paign­ing tac­tics against Is­lam­o­pho­bia build bridges or cause fur­ther di­vides with our Jewish broth­ers and sis­ters in the strug­gle against hate?

What has the Pales­tinian is­sue got to do with a UK-based NGO that seeks to tackle anti-Mus­lim hate in the UK?

Your an­swers will shape where you stand on this is­sue.

The IHRC ex­ists to sow di­vi­sion’

Fiyaz Mughal is the Founder and Di­rec­tor of Faith Mat­ters, and Founder of Mus­lims Against An­ti­semitism

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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