Board was on verge of back­ing

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LEE HARPIN

THE BOARD of Deputies was on the verge of back­ing a pro­posed work­ing def­i­ni­tion of Is­lam­o­pho­bia de­vised by a par­lia­men­tary group de­scribed as “de­ci­sively in­flu­enced” by the con­tro­ver­sial Mus­lim ad­vo­cacy group Mend.

A JC in­ves­ti­ga­tion can re­veal that Board staff at­tended a se­ries of meet­ings with lead­ing ad­vo­cates of the def­i­ni­tion — in­clud­ing Baroness Warsi, Labour’s Wes Street­ing, and Muh­been Hus­sain, a lead­ing cam­paigner from Rother­ham who once called for his lo­cal com­mu­nity to boy­cott the po­lice for their “Is­lam­o­pho­bic” be­hav­iour dur­ing the town’s child­groom­ing scan­dal.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ings, the Board was ready to back the All Party Par­lia­men­tary Group (APPG) on Bri­tish Mus­lims’ work­ing def­i­ni­tion of anti-Mus­lim ha­tred, which was un­veiled at a high­pro­file West­min­ster launch last month.

A let­ter sent to

Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May on De­cem­ber 1, pur­port­edly from Mus­lim or­gan­i­sa­tions across the UK from a broad range of back­grounds, called on the Con­ser­va­tive Party to adopt the work­ing def­i­ni­tion. It in­cluded the sig­na­tures of the pro-Ha­mas and anti-Zion­ist Friends of al-Aqsa group along­side Is­lamic Re­lief, the char­ity out­lawed by Is­rael over dis­puted claims that it has in the past chan­nelled funds to ter­ror groups.

It can also be re­vealed that one of the aca­demics re­spon­si­ble for writ­ing the pro­posed def­i­ni­tion of Is­lam­o­pho­bia, Pro­fes­sor Sal­man Sayyid, heads the re­search sec­tion of the Is­lamic Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion — the group which or­gan­ises the no­to­ri­ous Al Quds Day marches in London, at which the flag of the Ira­nian-backed ter­ror group Hezbol­lah is openly flown and where, in 2017, the pa­rade leader blamed ‘Zion­ists’ for the Gren­fell Tower fire tragedy. The 71-page re­port, pub­lished along­side the work­ing def­i­ni­tion last month to show ev­i­dence in sup­port of its find­ings, of­fers “par­tic­u­lar thanks” in the ac­knowl­edge­ments to Dr An­to­nio Perra, the se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst at Mend un­til last July. He is praised for his “con­sid­er­able sup­port to the sec­re­tar­iat in the prepa­ra­tion of this re­port” which “has been im­mensely valu­able”. Mr Perra is the only nonMP thanked.

Asim Qureshi, Re­search Di­rec­tor at Cage — who once re­ferred to Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist Mo­hammed Emwazi, known as Ji­hadi John, as a “beau­ti­ful man” and whose web­site once de­scribed the 9/11 ter­ror at­tacks as an in­sur­ance scam or­gan­ised by a Zion­ist bil­lion­aire — also sub­mit­ted ev­i­dence in­cluded in the re­port. Mend, which sub­mit­ted ev­i­dence, has long been mired in con­tro­versy. Last year, a se­nior Mend rep­re­sen­ta­tive as­serted that Mus­lims in the UK face a sit­u­a­tion anal­o­gous to that of Jews in Nazi Ger­many be­fore the Holo­caust.

The group’s for­mer di­rec­tor of en­gage­ment, Azad Ali, is re­ported to have said in March 2017 that that month’s at­tack on Par­lia­ment, which killed five peo­ple, was “not ter­ror­ism”. In Fe­bru­ary 2018, Sir Mark Row­ley, the out­go­ing As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner of the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Po­lice and for­mer head of Counter-Ter­ror­ism Com­mand, said that Mend was “seek­ing to un­der­mine the state’s con­sid­er­able ef­forts to tackle all hate crime’”.

But the JC has learned that were it not for a last-minute in­ter­ven­tion by lead­ing mod­er­ate Bri­tish Mus­lims and con­cerns raised by the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust, the Board was ready as late as Novem­ber 26 to of­fer its sup­port to the pro­posed Is­lam­o­pho­bia def­i­ni­tion — in time for the West­min­ster launch only days later.

The Board was will­ing to back the def­i­ni­tion de­spite be­ing shown the fi­nal def­i­ni­tion and its ac­com­pa­ny­ing re­port at the very last mo­ment, leav­ing it un­able to ex­ert any in­flu­ence over its word­ing and con­tent.

Mod­er­ate Bri­tish Mus­lim voices have told the JC this week that the APPG re­port fell within the “Is­lamist tra­di­tion” in fail­ing to ad­dress is­sues such as sec­tar­ian Mus­lim-on-Mus­lim ha­tred and open ho­mo­pho­bia from some sec­tions of the com­mu­nity.

They were also deeply crit­i­cal of the re­port’s at­tempt to un­der­mine al­ready ex­ist­ing laws in the UK that al­ready cover racial and reli­gious ha­tred.

“I was re­ally shocked at the Board’s han­dling of this is­sue,” one Mus­lim source told the JC this week. “Do they want to work with pro­gres­sives — or do they want to pan­der to those on the ex­tremes?

“They were go­ing to back the def­i­ni­tion and the re­port when the re­al­ity was Mend and oth­ers were be­hind it. Where was the due dili­gence?”

The APPG on Bri­tish Mus­lims an­nounced in Oc­to­ber 2017 that it had for­mally be­gun work on the es­tab­lish­ment of a “work­ing def­i­ni­tion of Is­lam­o­pho­bia that can be widely ac­cepted by Mus­lims, po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the govern­ment”.

Chaired by Con­ser­va­tive MP Anna Soubry and Labour’s Wes Street­ing, the APPG, which had been founded ear­lier that year, aimed to avoid the mis­takes of its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion as the APPG on Is­lam­o­pho­bia, which was dis­banded af­ter rev­e­la­tions in the JC over its links to or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Mus­lim Brother­hood and iEn­gage — the pre­vi­ous name taken by the or­gan­i­sa­tion Mend.

The JC un­der­stands that fol­low­ing the bat­tle to get the Labour Party to ac­cept the IHRA def­i­ni­tion of an­tisemitism last sum­mer, the Board, along with the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust, came un­der po­lit­i­cal pres­sure to pub­licly sup­port the pro­posed Is­lam­o­pho­bia def­i­ni­tion — par­tic­u­larly from Mr Street­ing, the Il­ford North MP. Mr Street­ing was said by one source to have sug­gested it was vi­tal that the Board and

Asim Qureshi once re­ferred to Is­lamic State ter­ror­ist Ji­hadi John as a ‘beau­ti­ful man’

Pro­fes­sor Sal­man Sayyid and Marie van der Zyl

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