Anti-Semitism: The Trap Muslims Fall Into When Discussing Israel And Palestine

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I was asked to write a piece on the sensitive topic of Israel and Palestine and how some Muslims seem to find themselves reciting anti-semitic tropes when discussing the issue. At first, I was reluctant to agree to it, given that such a sensitive topic would be received both positively and negatively from most people on either side of the divide. However, I felt that if this issue wasn’t tackled, then it was just another step towards making a topic that was touchable, untouchable. This isn’t an issue of free speech, but rather an issue of free thought in which we can say what we want about Israel and Palestine, without falling into anti-semitic tropes.

There is no denying that there is significant support for both Israel and Palestine to exist, equally, the contrary appears to be true also. The conflict between the two regions is not an argument I wish to rehearse here but rather how that argument can tend to lead to anti-Semitism both consciously and unconsciously by some Muslims. It is therefore important at this stage to define what anti-Semitism is, in order to ensure that what is discussed, is done so within a consistent framework.

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, anti-Semitism is defined as:

“… a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Rise of Anti-Semitism Worldwide

A report released by the UN in September 2019 authored by Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, states “the frequency of antisemitic incidents appears to be increasing in magnitude in several countries”. This is very concerning, for both Jewish communities and others that stand with them in solidarity against all forms of hatred and bigotry. The Kantor Center, in their 2018 general analysis report that hostility, discrimination and violence motivated by anti-Semitism have increased worldwide. Furthermore, in the same general analysis, Kantor Center also found a 13 per cent rise in physical manifestations of anti-Semitism. Therefore it is not surprising that in a survey conducted by EU Fundamental Rights Society found that 84 per cent of participants reported that anti-Semitism was a serious problem in their country, whilst 34 per cent avoided Jewish events due to fear of attacks. In addition to this, 38 per cent of participants felt like emigrating because they feared for their safety. It is therefore reasonable to suggest, anti-Semitism has not only always existed, but is rising at a rapid rate. This is displeasing because, whilst we appear to generally have become more tolerant as a society over time, Jewish communities do not appear to be reaping the benefits that come along with that tolerance. It is thus prudent to understand what Muslims can do to not unconsciously support this by listening to what those affected by it say.

 All Jews Are The Same

In my call for suggestions to what Muslims can do to not fall into the trap of anti-Semitism, I was inundated with ideas from many people in Jewish communities. The central theme to emerge was to not equate Jews, Judaism and Israel as one entity. For example, the actions of the Israeli government are not the responsibility of Jewish communities worldwide and that not all Jewish communities are the same. I found this fascinating, not so much so because I didn’t believe it (because I do), but rather that anyone would disbelieve it. This is really where the point of contention emerges for me, that if some Muslims believe all Jews are the same, and in their description of Jews they believe some to be evil, then they may believe this is the case for all Jews.

This line of thinking, whereby communities are considered homogenous is dangerous. Not only does it attempt to create a block of people, but it also suggests that any negative action that may happen within that “block”, is, therefore, representative of the entire community as a whole. Many in Muslim communities have experienced this very same issue since the September 11th terrorist attacks. So I find it bizarre that any Muslim would knowingly engage in anti-Semitic tropes? However, my starting point with any individual or community is to assume they are good and they know what is just, and would not engage in anything to the contrary unless it was done so unconsciously. I do not believe all Muslims that do engage in anti-Semitic tropes do so because they know it’s anti-Semitic, I believe it is rather the case that they do so because they do not know what anti-Semitism actually is. But how do you remedy against such a malady?

What Can Muslims Really Do?

Whatever suggestions I make henceforth, are fruitless unless those Muslims that have engaged in anti-Semitism are genuinely willing to change. The desire to be good must override one’s own pride and arrogance and, I am sure that those in Jewish communities are very willing to forgive if the perpetrator is sincere in changing their ways.

Elizabeth Arif-Fear, Muslim writer and activist offers her 13 ways to move towards peace with the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is a helpful starting point for both Muslims and anyone else that has previously engaged in anti-Semitism. For example, point 3 in which Elizabeth Arif-Fear says we must  “Listen to those most affected” is a very important one for Muslims. If the logic is, that Zionism is a racist endeavour, then surely Muslims should be thinking about the Jewish communities et al that are living under said endeavour? If Jews are not part of a Muslim’s concern, then it is the Muslim that has the issue, not the Jewish communities.

An example of this is highlighted when Elizabeth Arif-Fear posted a picture, on Twitter in support of Jewish communities regarding the Holocaust. To her surprise, and maybe not to others, Asghar Bukhari a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee replied with:

“Always one [SIC] muslim puts Jewish victimhood above Blacks, first nation people, Palestinians and everyone else. Shameful”.

If this isn’t an example of not only whataboutery but also minimisation from a Muslim about Jews that suffered under Hitler’s rule, then I don’t know what is? But is this is an isolated action from Asghar Bukhar? It appears not. There is one accusation that does deserve your attention, and that is of Mossad breaking in and entering his home in 2015.

Bukhari is reported to believe that Mossad broke into his home and stole one of his shoes. It is his belief that stealing both shoes served little purpose and that stealing one was necessary in order to let him know that they had been. Since posting it on Twitter, it received considerable attention and the hashtag #MossadStoleMyShoe began. Of course, he was ridiculed for such a risible accusation, but when anti-Semitism is taken to ridiculous extremes, then it is no wonder many people on opposing sides are brought together to laugh at him. Asghar Bukhari has since taken down that post and it is likely he will be defined by it for the remainder of his career.

Whilst this is an example of a ridiculous anti-Semitic event, there are others that are not so. But there is another issue which I would like to turn your attention to, and that is of the Jewish allies.

The Anti-Semitic Jewish Allies

In a Muslim’s quest to be less anti-Semitic, it is worth reminding them that whilst conflicts will always exist between adherents of religions and people from different regions, snakes will emerge to capitalise on this misery. One such individual is Katie Hopkins. There are plenty of documented instances in which Katie Hopkins appears to be anti-Muslim, whether it is the articles she writes, the interviews she gives or what she tweets. It is unlikely that anyone would disagree that in her pursuit for fame, bashing Muslims is her modus operandi.

Sir Mick Davis, the former Conservative Party CEO was aware of this and how it would manifest in the real world. In an article for the Jewish Chronicle, Sir Mick Davis states:

“We cannot defeat antisemitism by teaming up with people who mindlessly hate Muslims. Our fight against bigotry cannot be fought alongside bigots.”

This point hits the nail on the head because, whilst some Muslims may feel like people such as Katie Hopkins are only supporting Jewish communities as a means to hate Muslims, it is not the case that Jewish communities are willingly opening their doors to her. Sir Mick Davis advances his position further:

“These people are not our friends. Once they’re done with Muslims they will turn their attention to us. For them, difference is intolerable and something to be feared and vilified. Seeking common cause is a cynical ploy and sometimes the misguided and foolish are taken in.”

If some of those Muslims that are actively engaged in anti-Semitism realise that Jewish communities face a common bigoted enemy in Katie Hopkins, then this could potentially bridge the divide they are facing.  It is both the responsibility of Muslim and Jewish communities to find common ground against those that wish to use either one of them in their campaign of hate and bigotry. But as Sir Mick Davis highlights, the charge of anti-Semitism appears to be rooted in three sections of society; the Far Right, the Far Left and the Islamists.

Anti-Semitism – The One Ring Of Racism To Rule Them All

The phrase, anti-Semitism is the one ring of racism to rule them all was first coined by Maajid Nawaz, the founding director of the Quilliam. A strong proponent against anti-Semitism, Maajid Nawaz regularly takes on anti-Semites from the Far Left, Far Right as well as Muslims on his weekly LBC show.

In November of last year, Maajid Nawaz explained succinctly and with conviction on his LBC show how anti-Semitism was uniting fascists. But it isn’t just Islamists that can be anti-Semitic, so to can ordinary Muslims and they can end up doing so without even realising. For example, with the current conflict appearing to escalate in Iran since the killing of General Qassem Soleimani, a caller named Shabir decided to instead talk about Israel. Maajid Nawaz responds with probably the best answer anyone could give, and which underlies the thesis of this article when he tells Shabir:

“It’s such a cliche to drag Israel into this debate. Listen to yourself. And you wonder why people think you’re anti-Semitic. Why are you dragging Israel into a conversation that has nothing to do with it?”

It is like, Israel is a magnet that The Far Left, The Far Right and Islamists are attracted to. No matter what happens, they can always rely on Israel to exist, in order to blame it for everything bad that happens in the world. But ordinary Muslims can also get caught by this trap and it is therefore important for them to recognise when they are appearing to be in agreement with those that would ordinarily do harm to them. Shabir subsequently admitted his mistake and the call ended.

Concluding Thoughts

Although the topic was about what Muslims could do to ensure they did not fall into the trap of anti-Semitic tropes, it seems to be a difficult endeavour if Muslims themselves are not willing to change. Most of what is covered in this piece sets out the scene of what Jewish communities are facing worldwide and our focus should be on that. But in the pursuit of reducing anti-Semitism, we must tackle those that engage in it innocently, because there are some and they too are the victims of anti-Semitic propaganda.

Muslims such as Shabir exist everywhere, bringing up Jews and Israel at every opportunity they can, but in most cases, it is likely they do not even know why they are? Given that the Labour Party which is the official party of opposition is under investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for anti-Semitism, just goes to show that anti-Semitism has reached mainstream politics. This is exactly the cover that anti-Semites need to push through with their hate and bigotry and take unknowing Muslims with them.

The way forward for Muslims finding themselves unknowingly reciting anti-Semitic tropes is, to recognise what they are, and, to take a step back and put themselves in the shoes of Jewish communities. It is only through empathy can we work towards ridding ourselves of this malady. Much of what Jewish communities have been facing for centuries, have Muslims more recently been facing since the September 11th terrorist attacks. For nearly two decades, Muslims have been portrayed as the other, have been made to feel like they are terrorists and their religion is the driving force behind it, but the similar sentiment has existed for Jewish communities since the death of Jesus. So rather than bringing up Israel into every conservation, why not try and argue the case for Israel having the right to exist. If you find that difficult, then you have found your biggest reason for why you are consciously or unconsciously reciting anti-Semitic tropes.

Being anti-Semitic is a choice, so make the right one.

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On Saturday 27THNovember 2018, shortly after the Shabbat service started at 9.45am at Pittsburgh Tree Life Synagogue, led by Rabbi Jeffrey Hill, an individual with the sole aim of murdering as many Jews as possible defiled what should be a place of holy sanctuary, peace and joy by shooting dead 11 Jewish people.

What happened in Pittsburgh was not an isolated incident.It pains us deeply to say it, but due to rising antisemitism worldwide what happened at Tree of Life Synagogue will not be the last murder of Jews just for being Jewish.

We see attacks on Jewish gravestones, over social media and in person across the UK and worldwide.

In the face of this, it is important we redouble our efforts to combat antisemitism.

We wish that antisemitism had stopped with the Holocaust, but as the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue showed, there are far too many people with hatred in their heart prepared to hurt and kill Jews.

In Islam and Judaism, every single life is sacred. Therefore, Muslims Against Antisemitism stands in solidarity with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and the wider Jewish community worldwide. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones.

Designed by Voice of Salam ( Protected by Copyright Law)

As we come to the year anniversary, we call on people remember the 11 beautiful people who lost their lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

Joyce Finberg

Richard Gottfried

Rose Mallinger

Jerry Rabinowitz

Cecil Rosenthal

David Rosenthal

Bernice Simon

Sylvan Simon

Daniel Stein

Melvin Wax

Irving Younger

May their memories be a blessing.

Additional Information

If you would like to put your name to this statement over the next two weeks which we will be sending to Tree of Life Synagogue, please contact Muslims Against Antisemitism Co-ordinator, Stephen Hoffman at .

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Standing up to Antisemitism: It’s not always easy, but always necessary

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Please listen to Elizabeth Arif-Fear’s personal story that will provide you with an insight into the horrors of antisemitism. It’s an emotional, raw account, which as fellow human beings we should all be able to relate to in the spirit of humanity.

We have also included the antisemitic abuse Elizabeth received on Twitter and how people seeing this spoke out in support of her.

Here you see the picture Liz shared on social media to support Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s exactly what we at Muslims Against Antisemitism (MAAS) work to see, as this is just one example of so many which show Muslims showing their solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters.

Here we have the wording Liz used with this picture for Twitter. It illustrates a commitment to Jews and Muslims working together against bigotry.

Sadly, Islamists – who do not represent the vast majority of Muslims – seized upon this opportunity and tweet representing the best of humanity to give voice to their poisonous antisemitism. One such person epitomising such behaviour was Ashgar Bukhari, who works for the Islamist group MPAC.

Ashgar was not the only person to abuse Elizabeth online through the language of antisemitism – there were in fact many more. However, during a time of outpouring of hate, some people were however also prepared to #BeLouder and show solidarity with Elizabeth.

Whilst it can be challenging to speak out against antisemitism, at MAAS we are committed to supporting people like Elizabeth to ensure that Muslims and Jews stand together to combat antisemitism. This ensures that those seeking to divide Muslims and Jews will not win.

If you’re Muslim and want support in challenging antisemitism, please do get in touch with MAAS’s Co-ordinator Stephen Hoffman via email at:

Elizabeth Arif-Fear is the Founder and Director of Voice of Salam, a human rights and interfaith charity seeking to make the world a more peaceful place based on our common humanity. You can find out more about Voice of Salam at


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We will not succumb to Hate

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We will not succumb to hate

In the last 8 months the world has seen a wave of violent attacks on faiths. They have been attacks at the heart of our communities intending to divide us, inspire more hate and more attacks of the same. In October of last year eleven people were killed in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.[1] The terrorist opened fire on a congregation attending Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

In March of this year there were two consecutive terrorist attacks at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand killing 50 and injuring 50 others.[2] The terrorist opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers.

This Easter 321 people were killed and 500 injured in an attack on three Christian churches and four hotels.[3] It is unclear exactly who the attackers were and what there motives were but again it was a clear attack on faith and community.

These three attacks have been centred on attacking the heart and soul of communities. They have been inspired by ideologies of hate and nihilistic supremacism.  The strongest response we can have is to show our love and support for one another.

In response to the Pittsburgh and Christchurch we saw huge demonstrations of solidarity between faiths. Tarek El-Messidi, a Chicago-based activist created an online campaign with the backing of two muslim groups, ‘Celebrate Mercy’ and ‘MPower Change,’ raising over 240,000 dollars for victims of the Pittsburgh attack.[4]  Then in light of the Christchurch attack on Muslims, Jews opened a fund and raised money for the victims.[5] Responses to Christchurch by the community were incredibly powerful and moving; groups all over New Zealand performed the traditional Haka dance in solidarity and mourning for the victims;[6] a minute of silence was held in Christchurch for the victims following the Muslim call to prayer[7] and Jacinda Arden, New Zealand’s leader, responded to the atrocity with this powerful statement:

 ‘Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.[8]

We are now sickened by yet another attack but our resolve will not be broken. We will continue to stand for one another and in solidarity. Our communities will not be divided and we will not succumb to hate.

[1] Selk, Avi; Craig, Tim; Boburg, Shawn; Ba Tran, Andrew (October 28, 2018). “‘They showed his photo, and my stomach just dropped’: Neighbors recall synagogue massacre suspect as a loner”The Washington Post.

[2] “Police with the latest information on the mosque shootings”Radio New Zealand.







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Stronger Together. The world proves terrorist Brenton Tarrant wrong.

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50 killed including as young as three; a globe in mourning. A white supremacist with a camera strapped to himself hoping to gain fame as a hero and possible martyr for his successful mission in ensuring racial dominance has slaughtered 50 including a boy as young as three. In his sickening, lethal manifesto he purports immigration to be destroying communities and he claims to be acting for many that share in his beliefs, but New Zealand and the world are inspirationally proving otherwise.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister has responded to the atrocity with:

Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting may be migrants to New Zealand, they may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home.

They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.’

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg has made this statement:

‘The oneness of God and the fellowship of our common humanity unite us. We must stand as surety for each other in times of threat and danger. We must act collectively against all forms of hatred and bigotry. We must foster friendship and understanding between us and all people. We must work together for the safety and good of all life everywhere.’

At MAAS we are utterly heartbroken as we watch footage of parents who have lost children as young as three and watch the community grief stricken laying flowers at the mosques but whilst devastated we are also inspired by the international outpouring of love for the Muslim community of Christchurch. We are not white, black, Christian, Jewish, Muslim alone we are human and we stand together in humanity. New Zealand comes together and shows us exactly what it means to stand together in solidarity for one another.

Photo of leader

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University of Essex Suspends Worker Over Antisemitism Allegations

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A worker has been suspended amid an anti-Semitism row at the University of Essex.

The member of staff has been suspended while allegations are independently investigated.

The university said a Jewish society will be created on campus regardless of a vote in which more than 200 students opposed it.

Concerns have been raised by the Union of Jewish Students over posts from the Facebook account of lecturer Dr Maaruf Ali, including one that read “the Zionists next want to create a society here at our university”.

University of Essex vice-chancellor Professor Anthony Forster said: “To see the University of Essex associated with anti-Semitism has been a deeply shocking event and one which has filled me with great sadness.

“Anti-Semitism is antithetical to the values of the University of Essex and has no place at our university.

“We have a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and hate crime which is at the very core of our values and beliefs.

“We are proud to subscribe to the working definition of anti-Semitism produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

“Recent events have shown me we still have work to do and I am announcing a series of immediate actions to tackle all forms of anti-Semitism within our community.”

The university said it will ensure a Jewish society is created irrespective of any ratification by the students’ union.

It has launched a review to ensure Jewish students and staff are provided with unequivocal support and will hold a public event on February 28 in support of its Jewish community.

The Union of Jewish Students said it was “deeply disappointed by the significant proportion of students” who voted against the establishment of a Jewish society and “dismayed” to see comments from the Facebook account of Dr Maaruf Ali.

It said it welcomes Prof Forster’s condemnation of anti-Semitism and commends the “swift, strong and supportive action taken”.

“There is certainly still a long way to go until antisemitism is eradicated from university campuses, but we are heartened that these steps will make a significant impact on improving the lives of Jewish students at the University of Essex,” the group said.

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Not funny. Why we must challenge ‘casual anti-Semitism’

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A friend of mine went on a date recently where she was asked, out of apparent curiosity, where Jews typically live in London. In listing areas she mentioned Golders Green. She was met with the comment:

‘Oh that’s why it is called Golder’s Green’

When the date was pushed on what he meant by this he replied:

‘Well you know Jews and all their money’

Appalled and shocked my friend changed the topic of conversation.

Over the next few days she decided to ask friends what they thought of this comment. I happened to be one of these friends, as we stood over the world’s largest stone scarab in the ancient Egypt exhibition of the British Museum, we came to a deeply troubling conclusion.

It is a fact that Jews constitute 100 of the 400 richest Americans, which is strikingly high when you consider Jews only make up 2% of the world population.[1] However this absolutely does not suggest an ‘evil’ and a conspiratorial level of control. In fact Tzedakah, the giving of charity, is a hard wired Jewish value and in this vein there are more charitable organisations per Jew than almost any other group.[2] Also it is of course not a blanket rule that Jews are wealthy, there are many Jews in poverty: in New York 30% of people living in Jewish households are poor or near poor[3] and the Jewish Chronicle recently dedicated a whole article to the question of shame around being poor and Jewish.[4]  But more to the point, a good attitude towards work and knowledge of business is no negative, it is the jealousy of the relative success of the Jewish people and emphasis put on it by society that has created a negative stereotype leading to the greatest horrors of history. There are other communities that put similar weight on education, take the Chinese as an example, identified as disproportionately ‘high flyers’ in the UK,[5] however their relative success has not had them labelled as evil manipulators controlling the world.

Since Roman times, Jewish people have frequently been depicted as wealthy, menacing and controlling. In these respects, Jews have been associated with Mammon, the deity associated with money, and Moloch, the Ammonite god associated with human sacrifice.[6] It was this deeply held conspiratorial belief that lead to Jews being the scapegoat of Germany’s economic catastrophe pre WWII. It was this belief that then had them depicted as evil, selfish wealth grabbers that had their properties and businesses snatched on the night of krystalnacht where over 91 Jews were killed and over 7,000 Jewish businesses destroyed or damaged. Finally it was this belief that saw between 5 and 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

With this in mind you would think no young person would enter into banter connected to the same attitude that fuelled the largest orchestrated killing of a people in known history. It begs the questions what do young people know about the Holocaust and how deeply held are these anti-Semitic attitudes?

Let us first give the young man the benefit of the doubt. He did attend a top ten university and may have been trying to impress his Jewish date with his quick wit. Let us assume that he is aware of the Holocaust and the anti-Semitism that drove it. You may think this is an obvious assumption to make but it really isn’t. As a recent survey has shown one third of Europeans ‘know little or nothing about the Holocaust.’[7] Moving into the pre-history exhibition we decided it was likely that he isn’t within the one third that knows little to nothing of the Holocaust, however he maybe one of the quarter that believes Jews to have too much influence in business and finance,[8] thus a part of and adding to a new wave of anti-Semitism that is striking a deep fear into our Jewish communities. In fact this new rise in anti-Semitism has caused such fear that one third of Jews are considering leaving Europe.[9]

We then tried to further extend our empathy to this young man. Was it not just a joke? And when does a joke become a problem? We quickly concluded, as we moved past a recreation of a pre-historic Levantine burial site, that jokes naturally rely on stereotyping and that jokes often are dangerous and controversial in nature. However a joke that relies on the stereotyping of an at-risk minority, that has faced genocide as a result of said stereotyping and when said stereotyping strikes such fear into our Jewish community then it is no longer funny.

We concluded that there are some jokes that base themselves in such painful parts of human history, which use stereotypes that still pose a threat to the target of the joke, that they become dangerous. As a society we need to pay careful heed to the roots of stereotypes, the history of their effect and the current risk they pose. If a minority is still at risk and you are entering into what you consider to be ‘harmless banter’ then you are a part of the problem.

As we head towards Holocaust Memorial Day where we reflect on the evil that can result from engaging in prejudice we should reflect on how we can day to day better protect humanity from future atrocity. Understanding the roots of stereotypes and the risk they can pose to a people is a start. Identifying and challenging is the next step:

‘First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me’[10]








[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Martin Neimoller, First They Came…

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It’s no laughing matter – time to challenge conspiracy

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MAAS will be building a library of useful aids to challenge anti-Semitism. We will take manifestations of anti-Semitism and provide useful means to help you challenge them. First in this series we are looking at collective blame and conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11. 9/11 has seen hateful narratives created against both Muslims and Jews and in seeing how both of theses narratives have been created, their basis and why they are both false and dangerous we hope that you will have useful information to challenge these perceptions yourself.

Twin towers: The Jews did it! The Muslims did it!


Conspiracy theories might seem crazy, sometimes amusing but definitely not worth our time or attention. Wrong. Conspiratorial blaming around the twin towers provides a strong example as to why we must pay heed to conspiracy theories and dedicate time to challenging them.

On September 11th 2001 the Islamist extremist group, al-Qaeda, used four passenger airliners as weapons to attack the United States killing 2,996 people and injuring 6,000 others, causing Wall Street to close, resulting in a global economic downturn and closing civilian airspace in the US and Canada for two days. Despite the catastrophic effects this terror attack had on civilians and the economy, some adopt a belief that all Muslims were tacitly involved, or that it was not an Islamist extremist terror attack at all but an attack by the Jews.

Let us take first the notion that all Muslims are to blame for 9/11:

The thinking is this: 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims therefore all Muslims are a threat. This kind of thinking saw hate crime against Muslims rise from 28 reported incidents to 481 in 2001 following 9/11.[1] It is the type of thinking that results in consistent spikes in anti-Muslim hate following Islamist inspired attacks. It relies on the belief that all Muslims are ideologically aligned and violently inclined. It is in fact a very easy fallacy to contest; firstly Muslims believe in a number of different interpretations of Islam belonging to a number of branches and can never ideologically be treated as a whole.

A useful parallel to draw here is with the Westboro Baptist Church: this widely reviled Christian sect spreads hate speech and is considered a hate group by nearly everyone, yet no-one would consider this group to be representative of Christian belief and practice as a whole.

Secondly even of those who adopt an extreme literalist interpretation of Islam are unlikely to believe in violent Jihad as a means to achieve religious/ political goals. For example, Saudi Arabians whose dominant faith is Salafi/ Wahabism, which insists on a literalist interpretation of the Qu’uran, and has been accused of laying fertile ground for terrorism, mainly emphasize dawa and reform as a way for spreading their ideology rather than violence.[2]

A useful parallel here is violent attacks perpetrated by the far right: even the most right leaning people in this country abhor far right violence like the killing of MP Jo Cox, yet they continue to disagree with her politics and may be accused of laying fertile ground for future violence. To conclude here there are a plethora of beliefs within Islam and even the distinct minority who adopt a literalist view are very unlikely to agree with violent measures. Therefore, despite the attackers of 9/11 being Muslim it does not follow that all Muslims should be considered a threat.

Now let us turn to the conspiracy theory that Jews were behind 9/11:

Hezbollah’s television station Al-Manar ‘reported’ that 4,000 Israelis employed at the World Trade Centre did not show up for work that day because they were told in advance of the attacks. This then became central to the conspiracy that it was Israel and the Jews, not Al-Qaeda, that perpetrated 9/11. [3] In fact it is estimated that 400 Jews died in the attack.[4]

Unfortunately, a conspiracy theory like this is not surprising: there is a concerning popular point of view that Jews control world affairs. A recent CNN survey showed that 28% of Europeans believe that Jews have too much power over business and finance.[5]

Again, we see a diverse and complex group treated as a whole. This is complicated further by conflating being Jewish with actions of the state of Israel. Jews hold a variety of different political and ideological views, and not all Jews believe in the Zionist ideology (the belief in a right to a Jewish homeland) and then many Zionists do not agree with Israeli state action.  So to treat all Jews as a whole and to consider all Jews to be supporters of and actively involved in Israeli state action is again a fallacy.

Both theories have elements of collective blame. Collective blame is the punishing of the whole for the actions of a few.  In these examples Muslims are collectively blamed for terrorist attacks and Jews are collectively blamed for disasters according to an association with Jews and power, wealth and global control.

The problem with collective blame, according to neuroscientist Emile Bruneau co-author of Interventions highlighting hypocrisy reduce collective blame of Muslims for individual acts of violence and assuage anti-Muslim hostility[6] is that “If you collectively blame an entire group for the actions of individuals, it makes it totally reasonable to exact your revenge from any person from that group… You get a cycle going on where each cycle is motivated to commit violence against totally innocent members of the other group.”[7]  The obvious example here is the Holocaust. The Jews were blamed for the economic problems Germany faced and were painted as a threat to national security and prosperity. As the nationalist propaganda began to take root, the majority of German citizens accepted, encouraged and even participated in the mistreatment of Jews under Nazi rule. To give an even more direct example, Kristallnacht, when 267 synagogues were destroyed and an estimated 90 Jews murdered by the SA and civilians, was seemingly in response to the assassination of the Nazi German diplomat by a German- born Polish Jew, but can be seen as a direct result of shifting blame collectively, where one Jewish person’s actions were used to instigate aggression of the whole community.

As this article has shown, conspiracy theories and collective blame should not be treated as a joke. In the fight against the rise in both Anti-Muslim hate and anti-Semitism conspiratorial thinking, sweeping generalisation and collective blame must be consistently challenged. An easy way to do this is to get accustomed to the common conspiracy theories, do some research on the facts and keep them ready for potential discussions that head in this dark direction. Pointing out hypocrisy and ‘fake news’ are the best way to challenge the theories. As well as pointing out how dangerous conspiracy theories and connected collective blame can be.

It may also be useful to consider why conspiracy theories are formed at all. Conspiracy theories are often created to either shift blame from a certain group or pin blame on another group. It is no surprise then that Jewish conspiracies surrounding 9/11 are widely held across the Middle East. Another reason may be to make sense of reality when it goes against set beliefs, for example: those who do not believe that we had the technology to go the moon, may adopt conspiracy theories advocating that the moon landing was faked. They can also empower the conspiracy theorists with a sense of superiority as they might feel they know something others don’t, and that they have unmasked something that those in power do not want them to know.

As David Baddiel put: ‘Conspiracy theories are a way for idiots to feel like intellectuals.’








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Win the War? I’m not Fighting!

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Unpicking the Narrative of Bias

We live surrounded by invective, toxic opinion, and a lot of SHOUTING.

It is hardly surprising or blameworthy: there’s a great deal wrong with the world, and trying to be part of the solution is difficult and frustrating. Add to that the time pressures we are all under, the imperative to always produce and excel, so prominent in  the corridors of power and in our work place, and you have the ingredients for very bitter exchanges.

So what of a few bruises inflicted or a few wounds to lick? Surely the betterment of society warrants a few casualties, and we can just take it on the chin and carry on. In fact, we can probably draw strength from it, in the favourite trope of toxic masculinity: ‘grow a pair.’

But what if the methods were part of the problem? What if, in the race to turn up the volume and causticity of our utterances, we were causing irreparable damage? Or even worse, what if, by virtue of our combativeness, we were increasing our chances of defeat?

Intellectual debate has always relied on juxtaposition of different ideas, the very nature of thought formation occurs in neural connections made of electrical sparks, and reasoning is always made more fertile when challenged, yet the nature and rigour of the discourse is far more important that it is given credit.

The reasons differ from what may be immediately apparent, like  the basic need to keep a civilised exchange going and leave the debating floor with our integrity intact. In fact, having a more impassioned and rational debate helps us ‘unpick’ the automatic thinking that underpins so much of bias, prejudice and conflict.

That is not to say that we should shy from ‘calling out’ injustice and malfeasance as we see it, but by concentrating on the causality in our opponents’ motivations, we will make our argument stronger and more incisive.

The main problem with much of the acerbic exchanges on the media sphere is the ‘othering’ of our interlocutors by placing them into an immutably wrong conceptual space, allowing us to gain confidence in the righteousness of our position by virtue of contrast with it.

That is very much like the processes we employ, mostly unconsciously, when we make decisions based of biased premises.

The, now infamous, often quoted faux pas  by Jeremy Corbyn, who referred to Zionists as having no understanding of ‘English irony’, is a very good example to illustrate this point.

Corbyn later explained that he had used the term “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people,” and felt justified, I believe, in using the term to denigrate a political adversary, in the same way that one could say, without much controversy: ‘The Tories are a callous lot’ or ‘Socialists are living in the past.’

The point, however, is not whether the term is legitimately used, but that this process of creating a conceptually inflexible, all encompassing ‘other’ absolves us from reassessing her/his future utterances on their specific merits, and sanctions our treating of such utterances as the manifestations of a group that is intrinsically wrong, and therefore cannot contribute anything of value to the debate.

In other words, it allows the more prejudiced amongst us  to say that Zionist is ‘a thing’, like ‘women’ or ‘gays’ or ‘lefty’ and believe that everyone in that ‘group’ behaves as a single entity.

That is the same process we have employed in our biased decisions in our places of work, our courts of law and our social circles across gender, class, abilities, sexuality, religious and other perceived divides, in prejudiced structures whose mechanisms we are increasingly uncovering and struggling to make reparations for.

My point is that by frankly scrutinising our own arguments before making them public, we not only increase the mordancy and incisiveness of our arguments, but we also escape the vicious cycle of quick judgement and biased perspective.

In the debate about religious intolerance, these tendencies are exacerbated by the perceived immutable nature of God’s wisdom, and the various manifestations of holy utterances. Yet the mistake is to attribute these immutable qualities and infallibility to the very mutable and fallible human nature and all its manifestations and conflicts. It is no coincidence that when learned people: imams, rabbis, priests, philosophers, and others deliberate as a group, after studious reflection, their conclusions are inclusive and moderate.

So we should learn from the likes of Socrates, reflect on the conclusions of the Amman Message and The Bahrain Declaration on Religious Tolerance, and draw strength and perspective from the moderate sides of the argument, who are measured in their statements not out of weakness, but because of a strong and compassionate understanding of the inability of mankind to adhere to the perfection of God, Truth, and Justice. The emphasis is then on the process of seeking a path, rather than the appropriation of a predetermined, inflexible way.

In conclusion the way we really fight prejudice is by dismantling its complex structures into their small, often seemingly innocuous pieces. We must do this because human beings are intrinsically creatures of prejudice and coming to terms with it will help us navigate the small actual differences that divide us, and recognise the vastity of the common traits we share.

Lou Fioravanti is a Senior Researcher with Muslims Against Antisemitism


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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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