Muslim chaplain resigns from Leeds University amid Zionist rabbi row

Editorial credit: PoohFotoz /

A Muslim chaplain at the University of Leeds has resigned from her position amid an ongoing row between students and the university over a Zionist rabbi’s return to work from the IDF’s genocidal war on Gaza.

Farhat Yaqoob, who joined the university in 2014, quit after Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch resumed his role on campus, which sparked a protest movement among pro-Palestine students.

In a statement released on the Leeds University Union Islamic Society page, Yaqoob claimed her principles no longer “aligned” with the Leeds institution.

“It is with a very heavy heart that I am writing this message to you all. But I need to share the news that I will be standing down in my role as the Muslim Chaplain.

“My faith makes me a better human being and a better chaplain, and I should never apologise for that. I have witnessed that social justice is an integral part of everyone’s duty of care… Based on the current climate, especially since the international events around early October 2023, I have struggled to find those fundamental values lived out here on campus in the way that I feel works in harmony with me. It is becoming extremely challenging for me to stay on as chaplain.” 

The Islamic Society expressed sadness at the news, saying on Instagram: “She (Farhat Yaqoob) has worked tirelessly in her time to bring unity to campus, through mentoring students and being a light to us all in some of our darkest times.

“She has been and will always be someone who strengthens and supports our community and has been a person of safety in some of the most unsafe times, for that we will forever be grateful.”

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Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch, a rabbinical emissary serving as the Jewish chaplain of several British universities since 2021, returned to Israel to serve in the IDF amid the war on Gaza.

Since resuming his chaplaincy in January, students at Leeds have express outrage and fear over his role.

Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch | petition image

As the protests against the university escalated, reports surfaced claiming Deutsch and his wife Nava had gone into hiding due to threats they received.

During his time serving in the IDF, videos and pictures of Deutsch wearing an Israeli regime military uniform circulated online.

In one video, Deutsch is heard saying: “There is so much confusion going on and it’s so clear that there is evil and there is good. And what Israel is trying to do is destroy the evil, which is the most moral thing possible.”

Since October 7, Israel’s IDF has killed around 30,534 Palestinians in Gaza, 13,430 being children and at least 8,900 women. Another 71,920 Palestinians have been injured.

Israel has been accused of committing war crimes and a genocide in Gaza, including by entire countries such as South Africa, who took Israel to the International Court of Justice over the accusations.

Protesting students at a university are currently staging a sit-in demanding the immediate suspension of the Jewish chaplain.

Dozens are occupying part of the Parkinson Building of the University of Leeds, the latest outbreak of action after weeks of protests.

Speaking to 5Pillars, some students participating in the protests claimed that university campus had become an unsafe space for Muslims and that they were being misrepresented in the media.

A petition also launched demanding the dismissal of Deutsch from the university passed 12,000 signatures on

The Muslim Association of Britain raised concerns for Muslim students to the University of Leeds on X: “Why have you allowed Zechariah Deutsch to return to the university as a chaplain after serving in the IDF? You have a duty of care towards your students to ensure their safety at all times. How can your students feel safe with a war criminal complicit in genocide roaming your campus?”

Leeds students protesting | @5Pillars

5Pillars reached out to university for comment on both the protests against Rabbi Deutsch and the resignation of Muslim chaplain Yaqoob.

A University of Leeds spokesperson said: “As a diverse community of more than 39,000 students from 137 countries, we work hard to uphold freedom of speech for all and to ensure that the different experiences and perspectives of all in our community can be heard. The University has a legal duty to support free speech and peaceful expressions of views within the law, and has facilitated numerous authorised vigils and protests. We absolutely condemn all antisemitism, Islamophobia, harassment and abuse and would always take action against it.

“Our recent statement in response to antisemitic incidents in no way diminishes the experience of our Muslim staff and students. Islamophobia and antisemitism are equally abhorrent and have no place at the University of Leeds. We know that many of our Muslim staff and students are finding this to be an incredibly difficult time with many experiencing significant anguish and upset. We are meeting regularly to continue to listen, discuss and identify how we can continue to provide further support and address their ongoing concerns.

“We are saddened that Sister Farhat will be standing down from her role with us, and wish to thank her sincerely for her significant support for our Muslim students and staff as well as our wider community at Leeds over the past nine years of her service. The University will continue to ensure they receive the invaluable spiritual and pastoral support provided by the Muslim chaplaincy.

“Rabbi Deutsch is employed by the UJC to support Jewish students in Leeds and at other universities in the Yorkshire region. The University remains in close contact with the UJC to discuss how it supports his work, and ensure we are sensitive to the diverse perspectives of our community.”

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