A British Muslim activist who led an attempt to force Labour councillors to call for Keir Starmer to resign over his position on Gaza has previously openly spoken in support of Hamas, Jewish News can reveal.
Mukhtar Master, who organised a statement criticising the Labour leader last week as the representative of 20 mosques in Preston, had previously told pro-Palestine supporters at a meeting: “In this day and age, brothers and sisters, we are all Hamas.”
During the same speech, the local government manager now the the Muslim lead on Preston’s faith covenant, heaped praise on a Hamas-supporting friend who he said was sitting in the audience, saying: “Respect to the team, that’s what I say.
“Two weeks ago I went to circuit training and he wore a Palestinian football shirt. Not only did he wear his Palestinian football shirt, but brothers and sisters, he had the name Hamas written on the back of it.
“Now the thing is brothers and sisters, we need to have that attitude.”
Master also added in the speech: “We will fight the fight that needs fighting for the Palestinian brothers.”
At another public pro-Palestine rally, Master told the audience: “We stand in support of the democratically elected government of Palestine, which is Hamas”.
Both speeches were made in 2009, prior to the UK government proscribing Hamas as a terror organisation.
Master denied he had ever supported Hamas when approached by Jewish News on Monday.
More recently, Master has joined protests in Preston opposing Israel’s response to the October 7 massacre in Israel by Hamas.
On October 16 he was photographed next to Michael Lavellette holding a Preston For Palestine flag. Lavellette is a member of the SWP, and a former councillor in Preston who wrote in October 8th article for Counterfire magazine of the “Palestinian break out from Gaza” and of the “deafening silence” over “atrocities inflicted” by Israel.
Last Friday, Master had spearheaded a move by 20 Preston mosques giving Labour councillors in the city to to Starmer to resign for refusing to back a Gaza ceasefire.
The move made headlines in the national media as Master insisted that the city’s mosques “could not sit idly by and allow the atrocities [in Gaza] to continue without any opposition”.
He told Jewish News that at a meeting last Friday with councillors they “reached a mutually agreeable outcome which is being supported by all parties to the dispute.”
Preston’s ruling Labour members broke ranks with the national party a fortnight ago by calling for a ceasefire in the conflict – but were still later accused, after a meeting with the Muslim community, of a “lame” response to the situation.
The statement issued by “the mosques of Preston in Lancashire” claimed to speak also for ” the communities that we serve” and added “we can no longer tolerate the continued silence of our leaders” over Israeli actions.”
It stated:“We…demand that all our local Labour councillors commit to signing a joint letter calling for the immediate resignation of the Labour leader Keir Starmer. The name of all the signatories will be shared with the communities we serve.”
The mosque group leader Master also sits as the Muslim representative on Preston City Council’s Faith Covenant group.
The group, who also include the leader of Preston Council Matthew Brown, along with representatives of the Jewish, Hindu and Anglican religions, were formed around “a joint commitment between faith communities and local authorities to a set of principles that guide engagement, aiming to remove some of the mistrust that exists and to promote open, practical working on all levels.”
Master, confirms his website entry,”is passionate about his faith, his family and Preston North End. ”
A practising Muslim, he “attends the local mosque in Broadgate, Masjid-e-Saliheen”.
It confirms Master as a “human rights activist, and part-time writer” and says he “recognises the important role of interfaith work and is prepared to push the boundaries of its stereotypical norms, by tackling difficult issues head-on.”
But local sources also told Jewish News how Master as chair of a group called Children of the Ghetto had been behind efforts to pressure Labour-run council into removing the UK flag and replacing it with a Palestinian one in 2014.
The Palestinian flag did fly above the town hall for a few minutes, but after a barrage of complaints it was taken down.
Children of the Ghetto also hosted an event at which George Galloway was the main speaker that same year.
Master was quoted by the local Lancashire Telegraph newspaper saying of the meeting:”
“Having George Galloway attend the meeting is a real boost for us. He has been at the forefront of the anti-war movement for some time and I’m sure he will deliver a passionate speech.”
In 2017, Master wrote an article published by the Islam21C website, in which he revealed his attempt to twin the city with the Palestinian city of Nablus had been narrowly defeated.
But he also used the same article to claim that the IHRA definition of antisemitism was “misguided” and “demeans” actual anti-Jewish racism.
Local sources in Preston also revealed Master had spoken at a vigil in the city following the Manchester Arena terrorist atrocity of 2107.
He had suggested that those who carried out the attack which killed 22 people and injured 1,017 were not real Muslims.Other locals told Jewish News that Master was part of a group of “hardline” Muslim voices in the community, but stressed there were others who had reached out to the Jewish community in the aftermath of October 7th.
Asked to comment on his two speeches Master told Jewish News:”I do not support Hamas and I never have done. Your question stems from a YouTube video recording of a 2009 meeting which was primarily aimed at raising support for a flotilla that was going to Gaza to break the inhumane blockade imposed by the state of Israel.”
He was also asked if he wished to comment further on the claim made in the speech that”We are all Hamas”.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.