British Muslim organisations are continuing to engage with Zionist groups and figures in the UK and Israel despite the Muslim community’s widespread opposition to such initiatives.
Earlier this month, seven British Muslim leaders went on a trip to occupied Jerusalem, including visits to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Western Wall.
The delegation included Dr Musharraf Hussain, the chief executive of Nottingham’s Karima Institute; Imam Asim Hafiz, the first Muslim Chaplain of the British Armed Forces; Shaykh Ghulam Rabbani; and Shaykh Mohammad Asrar, who heads the largest mosque in Leeds.
The delegation also visited Masjid Al-Aqsa and then journeyed to the Palestinian Authority, meeting leaders in Rawabi and Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
Speaking to the Israeli i24 News channel, Imam Hafiz said: “To come here and actually see that people are going about their daily lives, and people from the Jewish community do interact with the Muslim community here, the Arab community, is absolutely fascinating.”
Rabbi David Rosen, an adviser to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, said he “thoroughly welcomed” the initiative, with the second such trip being planned for September.
“The more we can do to break down barriers and stereotypes, the better world we will live in,” he said, adding that while senior Christian and Sikh leaders have visited Israel, it is extremely rare for senior British Muslim leaders to visit through auspices other than the Palestinian Authority.
Muslim Aid, East London Mosque and the MCB
On April 3, the Zionist Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner spoke at a “Honouring the Christchurch Victims,” a parliamentary reception which was organised by Muslim Aid in partnership with the East London Mosque and the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).
Rabbi Janner-Klausner, who lived in Israel for 15 years and has been described as a “progressive Zionist,” urged politicians and wider society to learn from New Zealand’s response to last month’s mosque shootings which left 50 dead and dozens injured.
She said: “Jews and Muslims have much in common, including experiencing a worrying increase in the number of attacks against us in Britain. Anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred are scourges on our country, and both must be countered with determination and vigour by all sections of society, including the media, political parties and ourselves. We are so much stronger when we fight hate together”.
Rabbi Janner-Klausner wrote in the The Jewish Chronicle last year that she has been in love with Israel as long as she can remember.
“I love her contours, her sounds and her smells. Her language is the heart-language that superseded my mother tongue. Her language is the language of my prayers, of my strongest songs and my true soul. I lived with her for many joyful years and now I am away from her in another land and I yearn for her.”
East London Mosque and Muslim Aid last year held Mitzvah Day which was organised by the Zionist Laura Marks and sponsored by Our Israel, Our Future.
5Pillars approached East London Mosque for comment but did not receive a response.
Lancashire Council of Mosques and Raza Jamia Masjid
On a two-day visit to Lancashire in March, senior representatives from the pro Israel, Zionist Board of Deputies of British Jews met with the leadership of Lancashire Council of Mosques of Mosques, the leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council Cllr Mohammed Khan, and equalities expert Cllr Saima Afzal.
The chairman of Lancashire Council of Mosques, Maulana Rafuq Sufi, mentioned twice at a mosques security event that they have been warmly engaging with the Board of Deputies of British Jews since 1994 on “common religious issues such as circumcision, halal and kosher meat and religious burials”.
They also visited Raza Jamia Masjid in Accrington, from where Board of Deputies Senior Vice-President Sheila Gewolb said: “I am absolutely horrified to hear of this terrorist attack on Muslims in New Zealand. The murder of innocent people at prayer is a callous, depraved act. By visiting mosques and Muslim communities in Lancashire, we are saying loud and clear that the Jewish community are allies and friends to Muslims.
“We are leaving Lancashire now with even stronger relationships with our Muslim friends. We will continue fighting anti-Muslim hatred no matter where it arises, as we have done before, whether it is on the street, in the media, or in politics.”
5Pillars contacted both the Lancashire Council of Mosques and Raza Jamia Masjid for comment but did not receive a response.
Over the past few years pro Israel organisations in the UK have been promoting interfaith gatherings with Muslims, presenting them as harmless community relationship-building events. The government is also encouraging this type of activity through funding.
But many Muslims feel they are 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.
They say the thinking behind this strategy is to make personal connections with influential Muslims so it becomes more difficult for those Muslims to become harsh critics of Israel for fear of disrupting those relationships or rocking the boat.