When bad men combine, good men must organise

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We cannot escape the frightening reality that hate is on the rise:  Hate crime is up by 29% on last year; far right political parties have gained a terrifying level of support across Europe and the crisis in the Labour party surrounding anti-Semitism has uncovered a dangerous level of mainstreamed, poorly challenged anti-Semitic thinking. In tandem with the rise in physical and political manifestations of hate we have also seen the online space being increasingly used to share dangerous hateful views.

The parliamentary inquiry into the role of social media companies in addressing hate crime and illegal content online found that extremism is growing online in parallel with the growth of social media.  Last April, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, the National Police Chief  Council’s hate crime lead, said that there had been a significant increase in online hate crime over the last 24 to 36 months.

YouTube was found to be awash with videos that promoted far-right racist tropes, for example titles that included: “White Genocide Europe—Britain is waking up”, “Diversity is a code word for white genocide” and “Jews admit organizing White Genocide” as well as holocaust denial videos including “The Greatest Lie Ever Told”, “The Great Jewish Lie” and “The Sick Lies of a Holocaust ‘Survivor’”.[1]

How do we stand a chance against such bleak numbers and statistics? What can we as a community on and offline set against such hate?

The middle ground that opposes far right extremism, Islamist extremism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, gender inequality is woefully silent. This puts us in great danger of our human rights based values becoming second place to hate and intolerance. Evidenced most recently in the UK’s refusal to give Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy in Pakistan, asylum allegedly owing to fears of unrest here in the UK.

With the rise of digital and social media we have the same opportunities to speak up as radical groups do. We too, can fill the void. We can step into the public space and counter negativity and disregard for human life with positive messages and counter-narratives.

There have been great examples of communities making a stand #MeToo being one of the most prevalent movements. #MeToo reached millions of people around the world and gave those who had previously silently suffered a voice.

Recently in response to a sickening letter calling for a ‘punish a Muslim day’ in April 2018, communities across the UK stood up and spoke out against such bigotry and hate. #LoveAMuslimDay encouraged individuals and communities alike to show unity and solidarity.

John Stuart Mill said ‘Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than

that good men should look on and do nothing. With an unacceptable rise in intolerance in our society it is time we took to the platforms that hateful extremists are using already to spread their islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and misogyny and make a stand for the shared values that unite our diverse nation.

Muslims Against Anti-Semitism will be working with communities to build a grass-roots movement that tackles the particular challenge of the rise in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. We want to be a part of turning the tide on hate by challenging bias and will be using the online space to platform positive voices who share our values of tolerance, equality and individual liberty in order to do that. Watch our twitter @MAAS_UK and don’t be afraid to get in touch, join the community and get involved. Watch out for events and campaigns to come to and get involved in!

[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmhaff/609/60903.htm#_idTextAnchor001

Charlotte Littelwood is the Programme Manager for Muslims Against Antisemitism

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A Socialism Which Is a Hatred of Jews: This is Not the Socialism I Want

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Reduce the world to binaries and moral absolutism and everything can be processed with extreme simplicity. Intellectual legwork is never required, introspection deemed unnecessary, when dealing with complex situations because rhetoric around imperialists, anti-imperialists and capitalism has created an immutable moral framework for the world. In this the protagonists and antagonists are clearly defined and context and political nuances become irrelevant.

Within politics this creates intellectual trappings where some fail to progress beyond the material they studied in colleges and universities, imprisoned in a hate of America and capitalism that might have seemed a bit more rational had it not been set against their silence towards politically inconvenient atrocities and adoration for communism. If you’re a leftist, you are automatically good. If you are on the right, you are the scum of the earth, allied with imperialists and capitalists. And no one for sections of the far left are worse than Jews and Israel.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on the Palestinian conflict. As an ethical socialist, I regard it as a moral necessity to protest against Israel’s human rights abuses, just as we should protest against any country that abuses these rights. But the intellectually impoverished far left do not stop there. And it’s their view of capitalism and Israel that needs to be understood when looking at the sharp rise in left-wing anti-Semitism in Britain today.

In their world of clearly defined antagonists, Jews, or at least the wealthy ones, are posited as one of the chief threats to equality and fairness. They are the schemers and plotters who control the media, who are behind atrocities. The rhetoric around Israel drips in contempt that extends far beyond activism for Palestine. After all, if it was the case that they sincerely cared for the Palestinians they would protest Assad’s bombing of the Palestinian camps in places like Yarmouk.

Virulent anti-Semitism has often been tolerated under the guise of being an anti-Zionist. In the name of battling for Palestine and being against capitalism, terrible tropes about Jewish people have been allowed to filter through in left-wing spaces. Sometimes the tropes are not immediately recognisable, dressed up in anti-capitalist, pro-Palestine messages. Bankers are seen as the embodiments of capitalism but in far-left discourses, also posited as being Zionists. Israel are seen as behind everything, the puppeteers dangling us all. It plays on the classic trope where Jews are the masters manipulating everything.

For Illuminati or freemasons, read Jews. For controlling the media, see Jews. Labels of establishment and the elite exist across the far left and far right and both are seeped in racism. On the far right, it speaks scathingly of liberals who hold soft views regarding immigrants, refugees and Muslims. But on the far left, concealed behind the discussions on capitalism and its flaws, it implies Jews.

This has flared sharply on the left within the Labour Party recently and has been poorly handled. The political tribe that once recognised racism as something to defeat today views it as a smear against the left, and more specifically, against Jeremy Corbyn. A movement that builds itself around the man rather than the idea will always fall apart when he does. And so it has happened here when accusations around Corbyn’s laxness towards anti-Semitism didn’t galvanise the left to combat racism but instead accuse Jews of whipping up a conspiracy against him.

From sharing platforms with Holocaust deniers, defending a racist mural, laying wreaths for anti-Semitic terrorists, Corbyn has done little to fight anti-Semitism and shown very little sincere interest in fighting it. Bring this up and you hear talks of Cable Street and lifelong campaigning against racism. Anti-racism isn’t something you say but something you do, and where it has concerned him at the most pivotal point in his political career, Corbyn has failed miserably.

His allies have spoken of fighting anti-Semitism and yet at every turn been more concerned about free speech than fighting bigotry. They have continuously absolved him at every turn whilst maintaining the pretence that the left consistently fights racism.

Part of the problem is the premise that racism is a combination of power and prejudice, and as Jews are seen as powerful, cannot ever be victims. So when Jews are attacked or abused, sympathy for them is not what it would be say for blacks or Asians.

This is not what socialism looks like. This not what it should ever look like.

Rabbil Sikkdar is a British Muslim writer and has previously published in the New Statesman, Independent, I and Left Foot Forward.

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You Can Stand Firmly Against Antisemitism & for Palestinian Human Rights says Rabbil Sikdar

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Society today is notable for its inconsistency over racism. Some are less affronted by racism and more aware of an opportunity, seeing it either as a weapon for them or against them. Within Britain, both the Conservatives and Labour are increasingly specialists in selective outrage. Labour were once seen as the party that opposed racists and fascists but increasingly has become suffocated by the stench of its unwillingness to address anti-Semitism. The Tories happily point this out whilst allying with anti-Semites in Europe and dismissing Islamophobia.

Unfortunately, treating racism as something requiring moments of outrage depending on whether the wind is blowing against you or your opponent is no stranger to the rest of society. Anti-Semitism remains a scourge in our country, with British Jews visibly abused and assaulted, though the receding mention of this in the newspapers suggests how normalised it has become.
The Community Security Trust (CST) warned that over a 100 anti-Semitic incidents were being recorded on a monthly basis in Britain, stating that bigots were becoming increasingly emboldened to express their views. Children had been physically assaulted while graffiti had stained homes and synagogues, while MPs had been targeted with abuse for speaking out.

Chief executive David Delew said the findings “continue a trend that has now lasted for over two years. This anti-Semitism is not a random event, it reflects the state of British politics and wider society.”

The hostile environment towards British Jews is encapsulated by Labour’s implosion on this matter. But what about amongst British Muslims? How rife, or non-existent, is the issue of anti-Semitism amongst Muslims?

A study by CST found that British Muslims as a demographic were significantly more anti-Semitic than the general population, measured by their agreements or disagreements with a series of statements. When presented with the statement that a British Jew was as British as any other person, 61% of British Muslims agreed compared to 78% of the general population. And while 61% of Britons viewing Jews as making a positive contribution to society is a depressingly low number for one of Europe’s more tolerant societies, amongst Muslims it polls as low as 37%. Other statements which display prejudice towards Jews amongst many British Muslims include ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ and ‘Jews get rich at the expense of others’. The most harrowing statistic is that 27% of British Muslims believe Jews have too much power compared to 8% of wider society.

These numbers represent an unavoidable problem that must be addressed. But a reassuring takeaway, or perhaps simply an indicator of low standards, is that there are plenty of Muslims who reject prejudice towards Jews. Often when confronting issues amongst British Muslims, many commentators, tempted by their own internal biases and prejudices, resort to blanket statements regarding British Muslims. But likewise, silence serves no-one, least of all British Jews.

As Labour lurches from crisis to crisis on this issue it’s not uncommon to find the post of a prominent British Muslim activist on social media labelling accusations at Jeremy Corbyn as simply smears concocted by the establishment. Increasingly people associated, presently or formerly, with notable British Muslim organisations have been firmly insistent that anti-Semitism is just a conspiracy conjured to derail a Labour Party wedded to Palestinian liberation.

Understanding why British Muslims are relatively muted on anti-Semitism compared to other forms of racism requires understanding of how much of a burning issue the Palestine-Israel conflict is amongst British Muslims. As a community (plural more than singular) we are not the most politically active, and our energies are limited to issues that directly affect those of Muslim identities. Foreign affairs is a big talking point amongst British Muslims, and it’s common to find someone outraged (and rightly) over the Iraq War and Assad’s butchery in Syria.

But it is Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians which sparks the most anger and activism. Yet as seen in the numbers mentioned earlier, it has resulted in many British Muslims regurgitating old anti-Semitic tropes. They see Israel behind everything, blame them for trying to undermine the fabrics of the Islamic identity in the Middle-East. Jews are seen as the rich, invisible puppet masters of the world. And because Jews are seen as powerful, sympathy for those abused in Britain becomes low. Anti-Semitism is regarded as a distraction from focusing on Palestine, a form of racism that isn’t a real racism. It’s as though anti-Semitism died with Hitler and since then it’s been cosy for Jews. Combine that with Jeremy Corbyn’s impassioned stance on Palestine and racism, any criticisms of him regarding anti-Semitism is often decried by leading British Muslim activists.

Islamism is rooted in anti-Semitic beliefs but this is not the cause of its prevalence. Most British Muslims are happy to live in a secular state like Britain and are not agents for Islamist reform in the country. Anti-Semitism doesn’t owe itself necessarily to Islamism but a mutation of activism for Palestinian justice. Tackling it requires an acceptance that Jews are also ethnic minorities in Britain, something many on the left don’t consider when discussing BAME communities. Many Jews might be wealthy but that doesn’t mean they have any significant level of power and influence in British society. British Indians after all are a prosperous minority in the country, yet few would consider them to be immune to racism.

Many Muslims can sympathise with the notion that Israel was created as a refugee state for a group of people persecuted and hounded by white supremacists. They can see the powerful concept of a Jewish homeland and separate it from Israel’s awful treatment of the Palestinian people. Campaigning for a dismantlement of the illegal settlements in West Bank is a basic humanitarian obligation. But it doesn’t contradict the need to talk up more about anti-Semitism. This is basic solidarity that victims of racism should show each other.

Look to Pittsburgh in America where a white supremacist gunned down Jewish worshippers in a synagogue and the local Muslims responded with acts of compassion and kindness. That is the Islam that is preached in the Quran. Not one that advocates silence when Jews are facing bigotry on the streets of our home.

Rabbil Sikkdar is a British Muslim writer and has previously published in the New Statesman, Independent, I and Left Foot Forward.

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We Muslims Need to Talk About Muslim anti-Semitism

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This article was first published in Ha’aretz

Political polarization, Islamist infiltration and a helping hand from the Corbynite far left is leading more and more young, disaffected Muslims to demonize Jews. We must find the courage to speak out.

In France recently, 300 French dignitaries and celebrities wrote an open letter about the “quiet ethnic purging” of Jewish communities in the country – and they cited Islamist extremism as being the root cause of this racial and demographic purge.

They also lamented the fact that 11 members of local Jewish communities had been killed by Islamists since 2006 with the most recent murder being that of Mireille Knoll, an 85 year old woman who had survived the Nazi round up of Jews in Vel d’Hiv in 1942, from where families, men and women were transported to concentration and death camps.

Only about 100 of the 13,000 Jews who were detained at Vel d’Hiv survived, and Mireille Knoll was one of them. She was to end up being murdered in Paris, stabbed 11 times in an anti-Semitic murder and frenzy, which led to the arrest of two  people, including a man of North African heritage.

The Community Security Trust monitors anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom and their 2017 annual report makes for stark reading. Out of 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents logged last year, they managed to obtain descriptors of the ethnic appearance of perpetrators in about 30% of cases. Of these cases, 107 involved perpetrators of ‘South Asian’ or ‘North African’ appearance – around 25% of those cases. There is a high probability that many of these individuals were of Muslim heritage.

The CST goes out of its way not to stress this fact: that a significant proportion of the perpetrators of street-based hate crimes involved people who were probably Muslims.

Compounding the picture: in the online hate reported to the CST, anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian sentiment cross into anti-Semitic tropes. Tweets that combine blood libel imagery and the Palestinian flag, or with dead children with a star of David emblazoned on their bodies and with organs missing, all play to age-old and insidious anti-Semitic tropes.

Yet, troublingly, much of this rhetoric online was also circulated by British Muslims during the Gaza – Israel wars of 2014 and 2016. The tropes, images and language still cycle through social media and through three different sets of activists, if we can call them that.

The first of these sets of activists  are some British Muslims themselves. They can be further subdivided into active Islamists; into those who are not aware or do not consciously recognize that the material is anti-Semitic; and into those British Muslims who simply aren’t bothered if the messages are anti-Semitic. The latter often seem to believe that defending the Palestinian cause is a license to open anti-Semitism.

The second strand where this rhetoric finds recirculation and a home is amongst the far left, many of whom have attempted to rejoin and enter the Corbynite Labour Party.

The final element where it finds a home is within far right sympathizers and those who hate Jews because of “old-school” far right anti-Semitism.

Sadly, all three stick onto social and foreign policy issues such as Israel- Palestine like limpets, sucking on the lifeblood of the Palestinian cause, dirtying and muddying the cause of the Palestinians with their hatred of Jews.

That has consequences. I remember, the campaigns for a free and viable Palestinian state in the 1980’s, which were mainly held by British liberals  who genuinely demonstrated for a space where Palestinian culture and life could flourish. Some of these demonstrators rallied in the belief that two states could mean a real solution for the region, and few had anti-Semitism at their core.

During the 1990’s, a steady array of Islamists joined the demonstrators, walking in ultra conservative clothing characteristic of Muslim ultra-conservatism, with placards that caricatured Jews as puppet masters of the West.

That Islamist extremist bandwagon turned up and expropriated the Palestinian cause from Quakers, liberals and those disarmament activists colloquially known as ‘Greenpeacers’ who formed the backbone of the political left at the time.

It was to be a matter of time before this Islamist extremism was to find a natural synergy and partner in the extreme left in Britain, something that is patently visible and obvious today, as they smell the backdoors to power through a Corbynite government.

That natural synergy was based on an ideological convergence between Islamist extremists and the far left around the necessity to “counter colonialism” and on disrupt “Western decadence” and its “materialism.” These twin aims have been the glue which holds them together up to today.

But it’s a two-way street: it’s not only extremist British Muslims seeking friends in the hard left, there are also those on the left who are seeking to build a bridge based on anti-Semitism with the Muslim community.

I have to admit, that I myself have been taken in and duped by those who have tried to associate themselves with causes that are of interest to Muslim communities. Only later did I find out that their real motivation was anti-Semitism, and their “bridge-building” with Muslims was part of their determined, wily and twisted logic.

As the Founder of Tell MAMA, the Muslim equivalent of the CST, individuals have tried to be helpful in reporting anti-Muslim hate and some have postured as though they were anti-racist campaigners.

Taken at face value, they seemed reasonable and decent people, offering voluntary assistance that we were disposed to welcome, not least when hate crimes had been spiking and when we were stretched for resources to cover anti-Muslim incident reports coming in from across the country.

It also means that anti-Semitism is a complex and much wider problem that many of us previously thought, and sadly, depressingly, it comes from a wide range of areas, including within some sections of Muslim communities where it is entrenched and mixed up with 9/11, 7/7 and other geopolitical conspiracy theories.

It also means that anti-Semites will make approaches to organizations that work on issues of significance to Muslim communities, just as anti-Muslim haters may make the reverse approaches – to organisations working on anti-Semitism.

Sadly, everyone working against bigotry in the U.K. now have to be on our guard as to potential ulterior motives from many who approach us as “friends.”

As a British Muslim, I can honestly say that I have never seen the U.K. as fractured and polarized as now, and where anti-Semitism has become so deeply rooted in some parts of the British Muslim community.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been called a “Zionist” for working with groups like the CST and those Jewish groups at the frontline of tackling hatred and prejudice. It’s a convenient, but transparent, smear for some of my co-religionists to bypass the anti-Semitism charge by throwing out the term “Zionist.”

Many who throw this term out have hardly crossed their twenties and were not even born when the first Intifada even took place, yet their world view is binary to the extreme. Whatever’s Jewish is Israeli is Zionist – and hence bad; everything that they deem is Islamic, is good.

Just don’t ask them about minorities in Islam, since the Muslim minorities they don’t like are also deemed to be a threat to Islam. Ahmadis and Shias are examples of Muslim minorities targeted by Islamist campaigns in Pakistan; the poisonous accusation that they are “heretics” has been carried to the U.K. by imams who have adopted those views. This intra-Muslim sectarian hate is growing.

Unsurprisingly, progressive Muslims who call for an end to sectarianism and for diversity and pluralism within Islam have also been the target of U.K. Islamists’ online campaigns. Strangling Islam’s intrinsic pluralism is a classic tactic by Islamist groups to “take control” of the faith.

In their mind of the perpetrators of such hate, the world is bipolar, with Muslims and Jews at opposite ends; and it is people like this who are winning the hearts and minds of many young disaffected people in the U.K.

On the other side, anti-Muslim hatred is growing within white working class neighborhoods who see Muslims as the existential threat and where the appropriation of the Israeli flag and Jewish symbols are a means to bait Muslims.

We are truly at a dangerous juncture and it will take people of courage to speak out. At the very least, more Muslims can speak out and challenge the anti-Semitism within.

If we fail to do so, we can forget ever talking about equality, justice and tackling racists. It is those who speak at times where things seem overwhelming, who can lead the way. God knows, we need them more than ever.

Fiyaz Mughal OBE is the Director of Faith Matters and the Founder of Tell MAMA. He is also a trustee of the U.K’s National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

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