Mosque drops Shoah event over Iran re­venge fears

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY ROSA DO­HERTY

A MOSQUE in Gold­ers Green, London, can­celled an ex­hi­bi­tion on Mus­lims who saved Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust over fears that the an­ti­semitic dic­ta­tor­ship in Tehran could take re­venge against wor­ship­pers’ rel­a­tives who live in the Is­lamic Repub­lic.

The Markaz (Cen­tre for Is­lamic En­light­en­ing) aban­doned plans for the event — or­gan­ised with lo­cal Jewish groups and the help of Is­raeli Holo­caust cen­tre Yad Vashem — af­ter the Ira­nian regime’s me­dia out­lets crit­i­cised it for col­lab­o­rat­ing with “Zion­ists”.

The JC un­der­stands mosque lead­ers had been “fright­ened about the back­lash it was get­ting from Iran”.

Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime is well­known for its bru­tal­ity to­wards dis­senters, with the ac­cu­sa­tion of “col­lab­o­ra­tion with Is­rael” a stan­dard pre­lude to de­ten­tion and tor­ture.

The event, or­gan­ised with Bar­net Multi Faith Fo­rum, lead­ers from the Markaz, and the Faiths Fo­rum had been due to take place last week­end.

How­ever the mosque faced a boy­cott, no­tably from 5Pil­lars, a Mus­lim news and opin­ion site that op­posed the ex­hi­bi­tion’s ties to Yad Vashem.

5Pil­lars edi­tor Roshan Salih, who also works for PressTV, which is funded by the Ira­nian govern­ment, ob­jected to the event on Twit­ter say­ing: “No to nor­mal­i­sa­tion. Boy­cott Is­rael and Is­raeli in­sti­tu­tions.”

On Twit­ter, PressTV UK de­scribed the Holo­caust ex­hi­bi­tion as “out­ra­geous” and de­scribed it as an “‘in­ter­faith’ event with Zion­ists”.

The story was then picked up by the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s Mehr News Agency.

Mehr de­scribed the event as co­op­er­a­tion with a “Zion­ist in­sti­tu­tion”, and de­scribed the Markaz as a “Shi­razi cult”.

A source close to the event told the JC: “I have no doubt the Markaz were fright­ened about the at­ten­tion it was get­ting from Iran.

“It was wor­ried about im­pli­ca­tions for its com­mu­nity in Iran.”

The Markaz fol­lows the Shi­razi school of Shi’a Is­lam. It is a mi­nor­ity group

in Iran and of­ten dis­agrees with the regime over is­sues such as the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween mosque and state.

One or­gan­iser said: “There was a clear pres­sure on them from Iran to can­cel.”

A state­ment re­leased by the mosque, which opened in 2017, said it had de­cided to can­cel be­cause it “didn’t know of the in­ter­na­tional con­nec­tions” that some of the or­gan­i­sa­tions in­volved had.

The mosque said once it learnt that the ex­hi­bi­tion had links to Yad Vashem “the event was can­celled”.

How­ever ac­cord­ing to a source close to the event, the Markaz “al­ways knew” that the ex­hi­bi­tion had links to Yad Vashem.

They said: “There have been var­i­ous emails and meet­ings in per­son about it so they would have known. It is a shame they have been in­tim­i­dated into can­celling.”

David Toube, pol­icy di­rec­tor of anti-ex­trem­ism think tank the Quil­liam Foun­da­tion, said he was not sur­prised the mosque can­celled the event.

In a blog post for Quil­liam, he said: “Given the long his­tory of per­se­cu­tion of Shi’a who fol­low the Shi­razi School, and the fam­ily con­nec­tions of many at the Markaz have in Iran, it is not dif­fi­cult to see why they chose that route.”

He added: “A Shi’a group which sought to cel­e­brate and com­mem­o­rate the hero­ism of Mus­lims who pro­tected Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust was bul­lied and threatened by the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran and its cheer­lead­ers out of do­ing so.”

Rabbi Natan Levy, head of op­er­a­tions with the event’s co-or­gan­is­ers Faiths Fo­rum, said it “will con­tinue to fo­cus on build­ing lo­cal re­la­tions even though this event has been can­celled”.

Yad Vashem has said it was “dis­ap­pointed an in­ter­faith Shoah ex­hi­bi­tion at a Gold­ers Green mosque — to which it con­trib­uted — was can­celled in the face of pres­sure over the Is­raeli Holo­caust memo­rial’s in­volve­ment.”

They were fright­ened about the at­ten­tion Iran was giv­ing them

The Markaz mosque in Gold­ers Green has a largely Ira­nian con­gre­ga­tion

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