Sunday, April 26, 2015

British Jewry's Islamist Problem - Samuel Westrop

by Samuel Westrop

At the heart of this complicity between Jewish leaders and Islamist networks, lie the flagship organizations of the Jewish and Muslim communities: the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is Britain’s most prominent Islamic organization. It was established in 1997, by activists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, the Brotherhood’s South Asian cousin.

In 2013, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Husseini, a passionate Muslim supporter of interreligious dialogue and a tireless advocate for Britain’s Jewish community, was fired from his job at a London Jewish college. Muhammad had made the ultimate mistake within the world of interfaith dialogue: he had criticized its disciples.

Sheikh Al-Husseini dared to reveal that senior Jewish community leaders were conducting interfaith dialogue with pro-terror and anti-Semitic Islamist groups, while genuine moderate Muslims were left out in the cold.

The Sheikh is not alone in his concerns. In May 2013, a number of Bangladeshi, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist activists penned a letter to the Jewish community leadership. They asked if,
“Jewish interfaith representatives are talking to the ‘right kind of Muslims’. The ‘wrong kind of Muslims’ are associated with the extremist Jamaat-e-Islami, expressed in the UK through institutions such as the Islamic Foundation, Muslim Council of Britain and the East London Mosque. All three are currently being endorsed by Jewish interfaith involvement.”
At the heart of this complicity between Jewish leaders and Islamist networks, lie the flagship organizations of the Jewish and Muslim communities: the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Muslim Council of Britain.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) is Britain’s most prominent Islamic organization. It was established in 1997, by activists aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, the Brotherhood’s South Asian cousin.

One of these founders was Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, a leading Islamist activist closely involved with various interfaith initiatives in Britain. In November 2013, the Bangladeshi War Crimes Tribunal sentenced Mueen-Uddin to death in absentia for his role in the mass-killings of journalists and intellectuals during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.

Under Tony Blair, the British government relied upon the MCB to challenge violent Islamist narratives. The assumption was that political Islam would temper the allure of jihadist Islam. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money -- a great deal of which came out of counter-extremism funds -- was distributed between the MCB and its affiliates.

During this period, MCB officials regularly spoke alongside extremist preachers, periodically boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day, and expressed support for the terrorist group Hamas. Meanwhile, organizations affiliated to the MCB, such as the Islamic Forum of Europe, organized events with speakers such as Anwar Al-Awlaki, the late Al-Qaeda leader; and Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose forces have fought alongside the Taliban against British and American troops.

At the time, those who criticized the MCB were often dismissed as bigoted or paranoid. They were told to look up to the example set by the Jewish community through its interfaith work. After all, if the Jews say it’s kosher, what’s the problem?

Then, in 2009, the British government suddenly severed relations with the MCB, after The Observer revealed MCB officials and affiliates were among signatories to the Istanbul Declaration, a document that advocated attacks on British soldiers and Jewish communities. The government had finally realized the underlying ideology of the MCB was not so different from that of the jihadists.

Britain’s Jewish leadership, however, has never experienced any such enlightenment. Senior Jewish officials continue to regard the MCB as suitable partners for interfaith dialogue and counter-extremism efforts.

Vivian Wineman, for example, is the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He is also, however, chairman of the Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom, a taxpayer-funded umbrella body for interfaith groups across Britain.

Wineman’s colleagues at the Inter Faith Network have included Ayub Laher, who belongs to the extreme Deobandi sect of Islam; and Manazir Ahsan, an MCB official who was a key coordinator of the protests against Salman Rushdie in the late 1980s. These days, Ahsan is director of the Islamic Foundation, the leading UK publisher of Islamist tracts.

In 2003, The Times of London reported that two of the Islamic Foundation’s trustees were named on a UN sanctions list of persons associated with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

The Islamic Foundation's current chairman, Khurshid Ahmad, has described Taliban rule in Afghanistan as “refulgent and splendid” and has warned of the “implication of Europe's being in the clasp of Jews.”

Despite these activities, the Islamic Foundation is a leading member body of Vivian Wineman’s Inter Faith Network. The Islamic Foundation, in fact, also runs its own interfaith initiative, which includes a prominent Jewish interfaith advocate, Mehri Niknam, on its advisory board.

The Inter Faith Network is by no means the only example of Jewish community representatives working closely with Islamist operatives. The National Council of Imams and Rabbis, for instance, brings Jewish community representatives in partnership with Islamist religious leaders such as Abdul Qayyum, a signatory to the unequivocally anti-Semitic and pro-terror Istanbul Declaration. Qayyum is also the chief Imam of the East London Mosque, the most prolific center in Europe for anti-Jewish and anti-Western hate preachers.

In September 2014, the Muslim Brotherhood charity and MCB affiliate, Islamic Relief, held a joint interfaith event with a Jewish community charity, World Jewish Relief, to “show solidarity with the people of Iraq.” Rabbi Janner-Klausner, who heads the British Jewry’s Reform movement, spoke alongside senior MCB officials.

Islamic Relief's directors have included Ahmed Al-Rawi, who, in 2004, expressed support for jihad against British and American forces in Iraq. In Gaza, Islamic Relief funds institutions tied to Hamas, such as the Islamic University of Gaza and the Al-Falah Benevolent Society. Islamic Relief’s fundraising events have included Islamist preachers such as Haitham Al-Haddad, who describes Jews as “pigs and apes.”

This year, following the terror attacks in Paris, Britain’s Chief Rabbi was happy to speak at an interfaith vigil alongside MCB officials and Ahmad Al Dubayan, a “Saudi diplomat” who is also a trustee of the King Fahad Academy, a London school where pupils were asked to “mention some repugnant characteristics of Jews.”

For decades, Islamist organizations in Britain have used fashionable interfaith dialogue to put a friendly face on a sinister ideology. By participating in government-supported interfaith programs, Islamist networks are able to advertise themselves as “moderates,” obtain public funding and acquire political backing.

To a considerable extent, Sheikh Al-Husseini believes, the continued support offered by British Jewish leaders to Islamist organizations has made this exploitation possible. By working with Islamist networks, the Jewish community has sent a clear message to government, media and other interfaith groups and charities: extremists should be heard, not shunned.

Sections of the Jewish community are also not supportive of their leadership’s activities. In August 2014, following yet another collaborative event between the Board of Deputies and the MCB, several former presidents of the Board of Deputies called on Vivian Wineman to resign. The government, they argued, had rightly distanced itself from the extremist MCB, while the Jewish community appears to have “effectively rehabilitated” the MCB’s reputation.

Sheikh Al-Husseini is baffled. “The one community you would expect to be most robust about Islamism,” he tells me, “is the Jewish community. And yet it is the Jewish leadership that has, bizarrely, been the most collusive with the MCB.”

Why, then, does Britain’s Jewish community leadership work with extremist groups?

An obvious suggestion would be that British Jewish leaders think groups such as the MCB are representative of British Muslims. A 2007 survey, however, revealed that 94% of British Muslims do not consider the MCB to represent their views.

The reality, however, is more sordid. Jewish community leaders know exactly what sort of groups they are embracing and what sort of ideas they are legitimizing. In truth, Jewish officials continue to do so because they believe the Islamist grip over Britain’s Muslim community is too deep-rooted to do anything about.

Ultimately, the Jewish leadership thinks it safer for their own reputations to play make-believe with the organized Islamists than risk working with the powerless moderates.

Sheikh Al-Husseini is not the only moderate Muslim voice cast aside in the name of interfaith. Within bodies such as the Inter Faith Network, moderate Muslim sects such as the Ahmadiyyas have seemingly been excluded from dialogue for fear of upsetting MCB affiliates.

Until Britain’s Jewish leadership rejects Islamist control over Britain’s Muslim community, and treats those British Muslims prepared to speak out against Islamism with the support they deserve, the future of British Jewry looks perilous indeed.

 Samuel Westrop is Director of Stand for Peace


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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