5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih argues that several Muslim organisations have crossed a serious red line by normalising relations with Zionists under the guise of interfaith activities.
I have just returned from a conference in Istanbul where media organisations and journalists from around the world gathered in support of Palestine. The goal of the conference was to launch a coordinated media offensive in support of Palestine and against Israel. Interestingly, one of the workshops at the conference warned against “normalisation” with Israel which several Muslim states – including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Oman – have been moving towards over the past few years.
This normalisation always starts off with secret diplomacy, then it moves onto cultural exchange visits, and then you get low-level or retired officials meeting each other publicly. Finally, the leaders of Israel and these Muslim nations will eventually meet in public and formally recognise each other, paving the way for a normalisation of all political, economic and military ties.
The reason why the process happens in this gradual way is because Muslim public opinion is staunchly anti-Israel, so it has to be gently coaxed in a certain direction.
But make no mistake, Palestinians themselves consider this normalisation a betrayal of their cause and an endorsement of Israel’s brutality towards and dispossession of them.
I tell this story because this “soft normalisation” process is happening right here in Britain between some of our biggest Muslim mosques and institutions under the guise of seemingly harmless interfaith activities.
Take Mitzvah Day, for example. This event, which took place on Sunday, is supposedly a “day of social action to bring people together,” which is led by the Jewish community but involves people of different faiths.
This year’s event in London was mainly based at East London Mosque where volunteers from Muslim Aid (whose CEO, Jehangir Malik, wrote glowingly about it in the Jewish News/Times of Israel) and Stoke Newington Shul came together to make 1,000 bowls of chicken soup for the local homeless population.
Now who could possibly complain about Muslims and Jews cooking soup together for the homeless? I must be a paranoid individual who sees a Zionist conspiracy in every nook and cranny?
Ok, so let’s dispassionately assess the evidence.
Mitzvah Day was founded by the pro Israel Laura Marks who was Senior Vice President of the pro Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews from 2012-2015. She also co-founded the Jewish Muslim Women’s Network, Nisa-Nashim, which earlier this year criticised the former L’Oreal model Amena Khan for denouncing Israel.
Mitzvah Day is sponsored by Our Israel, Our Future which says it has been building meaningful connections between the UK Jewish community and the people of Israel for nearly 100 years.
Another of Mitzvah Day’s donors and sponsors is the Shoresh Charitable Trust which states that its objectives are the “advancement of the Jewish religion by strengthening the continuity of normative Judaism, and the promotion both in Israel and elsewhere of projects which are both charitable… and benefit the wider Jewish Community.”
Another donor and sponsor of Mitzvah Day is the European Jewish Fund which runs projects in Israel.
In terms of media coverage, Mitzvah Day was heavily promoted in pro Israel British newspapers such as the Jewish News and the Jewish Chronicle.
And last but not least it was attended and endorsed by Israel’s ambassador to the UK, the notorious apologist for Israeli crimes, Mark Regev.
As you will have noticed there is a common theme to all I have mentioned above – Israel, Israel, Israel.
Ask yourself why all these pro Israel organisations and individuals would want to cook chicken soup with Muslims in a mosque? Is it out of the goodness of their hearts to improve community relations? Well, some would question if people who endorse the brutal occupier and oppressor Israel have hearts at all.
Or perhaps it’s because it has been a deliberate strategy of pro Israel organisations to promote interfaith gatherings over many years. In fact, they seem obsessed by it, and who on earth could possibly be obsessed by sharing tea and biscuits?
My view – based on years of reading pro Israel media and following Israeli politics – is that the promotion of interfaith is a deliberate tactic to firmly establish Israel as a fait accompli, to neuter criticism of it and to divide groups which could pose a threat to it.
For example, if Zionists make personal connections with influential Muslims then it becomes more difficult for those Muslims to become harsh critics of Israel for fear of disrupting those relationships or rocking the boat. So instead they may simply limit themselves to mild criticism of certain aspects of Israeli policy but never question fundamental aspects of Israel’s very nature.
And of course this means that those Muslim activists who do question the way Israel was founded (through theft of land and ethnic cleansing), or how Israel has sustained itself since (through war, occupation, oppression and Apartheid), are deemed extremists who need to be sidelined.
This also means that the “moderates” and “extremists” will never work together or form a united front against the Zionist enemy.
And remember, as with states, this soft normalisation with tea and biscuits is just a prelude to a more formal alliance between Zionists and mainstream Muslims.
Naming and shaming
I don’t like naming and shaming Muslim organisations but this normalisation process has been going on for a long time now and behind-the scenes naseeha seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Ultimately, East London Mosque which hosted an event sponsored by Zionists, as well as Muslim Aid and the Muslim Council of Britain, which facilitated and promoted it, need to remember which community sustains them and gives them legitimacy.
Did anyone in these organisations consult with the community before they decided to get cosy with Zionists? Or were they hoping that this would just pass over our heads? Or have they been ordered by government bodies to work with Zionists as the price of getting back to the top table with access to influence and funds that that entails?
It certainly is a crying shame that when certain Muslim organisations and activists are basically being no-platformed within our masaajid, Zionists get the red carpet treatment.
But don’t forget these aforementioned Muslim organisations certainly aren’t the only ones who are guilty of normalisation with Zionists. Others include Tell Mama, Stanmore Mosque, Birmingham Central Mosque, The Khoei Foundation, the Islamic Society of Britain, The Muslim Women’s Network, Manchester Central Mosque, Masjid-E-Quba in Stoke Newington, Eternal Light School in Bradford, Mehfil E Abbas in Birmingham and Golders Green Islamic Centre.
Palestine and the Ummah
Like all Muslims across the world I have been brought up with the belief that Palestine is the central political cause of the Muslim Ummah. After all, this is the land of Al Aqsa where the Prophet (saw) performed his Night Journey; a land that was usurped by mainly European settlers at the expense of the indigenous people who still suffer to this day.
But I fear that our community leaders are selling this cause out for the sake of gaining entrance into the establishment fold. And if we don’t stop them now from going down this shameless route it will be completely normal for Muslims to work alongside those who are directly or indirectly oppressing our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
Where is the shame of these community leaders? Where is the love of Palestine in their hearts?
Personally, I want a Muslim leadership that will not be cowed by government threats or bogus accusations of anti semitism. I want a leadership that truly represents the community and not their own vested interests. And I want to be part of a Muslim community that is led by lions, not by mice.
Islamic religious and political values are under constant threat here in the UK. We are being told to compromise over sharia law, khilafa, homosexuality, abortion, niqab, fasting, foreign policy, Prevent and Palestine.
And it is the job of our generation to hold tight to all of our religious and political values without exception and not give an inch. Otherwise we will surely go down the path of Christianity where churches are now empty, or American Muslims who are abandoning authentic Islam.
For those who want to do interfaith with Jews there are so many anti-Israel Jews we can do it with; men and women who take an honourable stance when it comes to the Zionist entity, and frankly who have much more courage than our community leaders.
Given half the chance our leaders may well sell us down the river so that they can get their knighthoods and appear on the mainstream media. So we need to hold them to account for what they are doing and keep them honest. They work for us and gain their legitimacy from us; not the other way around.