OPINION: Jew hate remains a toxic force in many UK Muslim communities

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OPINION: Jew hate remains a toxic force in many UK Muslim communities

Where are the imams speaking out against Hamas and the rise in antisemitic attacks in this country, asks the Founder of Faith Matters and Muslims Against Antisemitism.

A vigil to show Muslim support for the Jewish community in the wake of 7/10
A vigil to show Muslim support for the Jewish community in the wake of 7/10

The war in Gaza has been deeply damaging to Israel’s global reputation, of that there is no doubt. There is also no doubt that the reported 31,000 deaths of Palestinians, many of them civilian women and children, will be a dark chapter in Israel’s response to the murderous attack by the Islamist group Hamas. 

It is sad to see what the conflict has thrown up in our country and the way community relations have fractured, bar a few symbolic acts of friendships and Iftar evenings where Muslims have invited selected members of Jewish communities to break their fast with them.

We are in a bad place. Many Jews and Muslims understand and realise this. However, tribal politics stops people from speaking out, apart from a handful of heroes, such as the deeply inspiring and moving Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. On the Muslim side, there is a vacuum of imams who have actively spoken out against Hamas, their actions and the corresponding rise in antisemitic attacks in our country. It is this lack of voices from imams that deeply troubles me.

Growing up I always thought that it was central to the concept of morality to speak out about things that are unjust and plain wrong. Reflecting back on my life, this morality was strengthened in me through years of Jesuit Catholic and Methodist schools I attended which promoted morality through the life of Christ.

It was further reinforced by my parents who talked about morality and how Islam stresses ‘being just’. This was further layered later in life by Jewish traditions that have resonated with me for the last two decades. Each of these three faiths have, much like a layer cake, strengthened my core values in morality – in what is right and wrong and in speaking up about things when they are wrong.

Fiyaz Mughal speaking at the No2H8 Crime Awards

Well, we have reached this point of the highest number of recorded antisemitic attacks because of a number of reasons, one of which has been the lack of a real drive to tackle antisemitism within small but vocal parts of British Muslim communities. This does not absolve or deflect from some of the appalling racism that has shown itself through small but vocal and aggressive groups of Kahanists in Israel, who are both anti-Arab and anti-Muslim.

But here is the point. They have no traction in British Jewish communities, yet Islamism and Islamist extremism is a wider problem that stubbornly spreads its hateful language and actions against our Jewish brothers and sisters here in the United Kingdom.

Why do I raise this and link the issues? Well, what I hear from some Muslims when I stress the point that Muslim antisemitism has to be tackled head on, is that Jewish extremism is a problem within Israel, but it is not a problem in the United Kingdom . This argument is meant to deflect from the very real and ingrained problem of antisemitism within small, vocal and very active parts of Muslim communities in our country. (This is the group of individuals and groups that I refer to when I use the term ‘Muslim antisemitism’).

There is a vacuum of imams who have actively spoken out against Hamas, their actions and the corresponding rise in antisemitic attacks in our country.

What has been the Government’s actions against this toxic problem? It has been doing what it does best – sending out political messages that lean on the police to do more. The Government has simply pushed the police to make more arrests when pro-Palestine rallies have taken place.

Their first line of action, rightly so, has therefore been to impress the need for police forces to use existing laws to tackle hate and intolerance. However, there has been no Government action to build organisations who can challenge Muslim antisemitism.

This has been an ongoing problem. It’s as if there are no partners in Muslim communities that the Government can work it. This, I have to add, is the penumbra in the focus of work that needs to be done to tackle the ingrained issue of antisemitism.

Let us also not kid ourselves that Muslim antisemitism is a recent issue. It has been an issue since the first intifida. I have noted this many times in articles over the last decade. This means that we have had successive Conservative and Labour governments that have failed to tackle the issue. No doubt, with a potential Labour victory on the horizon, the party will be very sensitive to supporting any challenge to antisemitism from small sections of Muslim communities. If they follow this path of inaction, be in no doubt that it will come back to bite them. Labour must act and act with clarity and a bold vision to tackle antisemitism within these small parts of Muslim communities.

Let us also not kid ourselves that Muslim antisemitism is a recent issue. It has been an issue since the first intifida.

I am not going to talk further about the actions of Israel within the context of antisemitism. I do this since there is no justification for antisemitism. We also can’t set aside how the conflict has sent many people into dark mental spaces where common sense has gone out the window.

Finally, I will leave you with this example of something that struck me a week ago when I was working with a counselling client. He is a young and dynamic Muslim man of Pakistani heritage who arrived in the UK in the last decade. As a professional person, he has made his life in the country and his partner is Jewish. There is a deep bond between him and his partner who, he says, is one of the ‘beautiful’ lights in his life.

During one of my therapy sessions, he described how his partner cannot travel into central London and feels unsafe as something could happen if she went shopping on a Saturday in the city.

He felt sad, shocked and disturbed at the level of insecurity she feels and how she really does fear for her safety in one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

The cause is simple; pro-Palestine demonstrations have triggered fears within her. While the vast majority of people on these demonstrations are our law-abiding friends, colleagues and partners, the impact of them has had tsunami-type impact on the emotional and mental health of Britain’s Jews.

What he did not realise was that his words resonated deeply with me. As a Muslim who has spoken repeatedly about the issue of Muslim antisemitism, my client did not realise how proud I felt for him regarding his care and empathy for his partner.

Antisemitism is therefore not just an issue for Britain’s Jews to overcome. It is something for all of us to challenge.

Fiyaz Mughal is the Founder of Faith Matters and Muslims Against Antisemitism and is a practising counsellor and therapist at

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