The Islamophobia-monitoring organisation Tell MAMA has appointed the former head of the Community Security Trust as its co-chair.
Richard Benson chaired the CST for 12 years. The group’s remit is to protect Britain’s Jewish community form external threats such as “bigotry, anti-semitism and terrorism.” But critics say that the CST is pro-Zionist and pro-Israeli.
The appointment of Benson to the part-time, voluntary position comes weeks after the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was made a patron of Tell MAMA.
Some members of the Muslim community have criticised the appointments, saying that Tell MAMA is undermining the good work it has done in monitoring the rise of Islamaphobia by conflating this work with other controversial agendas. These critics point out that homosexuality is considered a sin by Muslim scholars and Zionism is vehemently opposed by most British Muslims.
But Tell MAMA’s founder Fiyaz Mughal said that the appointments indicated that the government-backed body is “mainstreaming” its work.
He said: “The primary role of CST is to tackle antisemitism and to ensure the safety and security of synagogues in the UK, yet they have excelled into becoming the leading agency on hate crime….
“Furthermore, Richard brings with him experience and a business like approach to this work which will add to the skills and abilities that my team and I have. I warmly welcome that and believe that it will add to our work and ensure that a sustainable base for this work is built.
“It is also interesting to note that a small number within Muslim communities link CST to Israel and then use that as a means to caricature the leadership base of TELL MAMA. We are clear. CST’s work on hate crime has been groundbreaking and if organisations in Muslim communities had developed such groundbreaking work, we would have invited them to be part of us.
“Sadly, there has been a gaping vacuum in this work in Muslim communities which we stepped into and where we have created what we hope is a national project that includes rather than excludes. This is our underlying ethos in TELL MAMA – that any form of intolerance and bigotry goes against our core collective values.
“With Richard at the helm with me, with a co-Chair from Muslim communities, we will make significant headway in mainstreaming this work and I personally am honoured that Richard has made this decision. He did not have to, but he has again, stepped forward to assist other communities and this reflects his strong desire to ensure that communities live free form fear.
“This brings us onto our invitation for Peter to be a part of us as a patron. I have made my position clear in this article. Peter has been an ardent campaigner of human rights focusing on LGBTQ rights and it is important to provide some context.
“He is a human rights campaigner and we have noticed how a handful of individuals, some purporting to be Muslims, have been suggesting that Peter linked Islam to Nazism in a 1994 campaign. He did not and individuals who do link Islam with Nazism, more than likely have an agenda to alienate and isolate out Muslims in Europe and are more fascistic in their nature by alienating others.
“In 1994, Peter campaigned with a placard that was targeted at a Hizb-ut-Tahrir conference which targeted a range of communities, including LGBTQ communities as being obscene etc and the placard also made that clear though his detractors want to miss that out. Peter was therefore campaigning outside that HT conference and we are proud of working with a man who sees alliances between Muslims and LGBTQ communities as the way ahead. We are also proud of working with a group that we have immense respect for, Imaan.
“The way forward is one where our partners and us develop a stronger, robust and more mainstream Islamophobic hate crime monitoring platform which we will continue to push forward with. If people do not like our mainstreaming approach, I have only one think to say. Muslim communities do not live in isolation – we depend on, interact with, value, discuss and learn from other communities. That is at the core of Islam – education.”