OPINION: What does the future hold for UK Muslim-Jewish relations in the wake of 7/10?

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OPINION: What does the future hold for UK Muslim-Jewish relations in the wake of 7/10?

In today’s weaponised social media world, honesty and vulnerability about the Israel-Hamas war can be turned into attack points, warns founder of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal.

The horror on both sides has been unimaginable.
The horror on both sides has been unimaginable.

The first I came to know about the events of 7 October was when I got a text from a friend saying that Hamas had entered Israel in the hundreds. I was half asleep when I read the text and thought that he was either joking or that he had delved into a conspiracy website overnight, or was just playing a prank on me. How I wish this was the case.

The reality was truly dreadful, a sort of realisation of Dante’s various stages of hell, but I am also mindful of the anti-Muslim nature of Dante’s work in this manner.

Fiyaz Mughal, the founder and director of Faith Matters and Tell MAMA

Over the last 12 weeks, so many people have despaired at the level of violence. The brutal murders of people going about their lives in southern Israel, the attacks on the Kibbutzim communities, the horrendous gender based attacks on Israeli women that have led to serious traumas and the national acute existential threat trauma that was felt after October 7th; this national trauma was based on Israel and its citizens feeling vulnerable and unable to stop attacks by Hamas, the Islamist group that has been in control of Gaza for over a decade.

I for one, have felt the deep lows of despair, a pain that I can only describe as spiritual distress and a knowledge that since 7 October, relations between British Muslim and Jewish communities have been thoroughly reset. This reset is nothing near what it was before this date, even though it was not particularly great after the numerous earthquakes of previous Israel and Gaza conflicts.

My sense of despair, like many of you reading this, has turned to anger, and then back to despair.

The reset has meant that deep distrust has set in which is based on why neither community has openly condemned the actions of Hamas and acknowledgement of the pain of many Israelis, or the brutal and substantive killing of over ten thousand Palestinian children by the Israeli Government – let alone their mothers.

While some may not like the choice of the term ‘brutal’, the fact that is that Israel’s campaign in Gaza has flattened it and the brutality of the killing has been shocking. Also shocking has been the brutality and blood-thirstiness of Hamas in their invasion of Israel. These facts cannot be hidden or disputed. Both Hamas and the Israeli government’s actions have been brutal and inhumane.

While I believe Israel had every right to militarily respond to the invasion by Hamas, world opinion would have been carried along with it, through a targeted, focused and measured campaign. I would even go so far as to say that the government of Israel should have employed its targeted assassination campaign against Hamas leaders, as it has done on previous occasions.

Yet, it chose to bulldoze Gaza – literally, and in doing so, it has lost much of that initial support. Furthermore, Islamist extremists have used the pain of Gaza to further draw people to their ideology.

I have found myself reflecting back on the horrendous pictures and stories of those kidnapped Israelis who were in the wrong place and the wrong time. Who can forget pictures of the young women handcuffed, blood covering their jogging bottoms, looking traumatised, dishevelled and with their eyes dilated by the surge of adrenaline that comes from the fear of a brutal death.

My sense of despair, like many of you reading this, has turned to anger, and then back to despair. Twelve weeks of flitting between these polarised emotions, seeing pictures of the kidnapped Israelis, the bodies of dead Israelis and young Palestinian children, some of whom were carried in plastic bags by their parents, has emotionally drained me. I for one, cried with rage over the lack of control that I felt when I saw pictures of brothers and sisters laid out on the floor of a Palestinian hospital with their clothing burnt to a crisp. They did not even have the dignity of a clean floor for their final moments.

Given the interfaith work I did for two decades, I am split both ways, feeling the pain of Israelis and the pain of Palestinians.

Their bodies lay on the dirt, blood and body fluids of the many Palestinians who had passed through and who had also lost their lives in violent ways. Correspondingly, I cannot forget the young Israelis lying lifeless in twisted contortions on the grass, nestling close to a drinks counter at the Nova festival. One girl’s hair was tied in a bun, though it would not be released whilst she was alive.

No one can deny that things have changed. Given the interfaith work I did for two decades, I am split both ways, feeling the pain of Israelis and the pain of Palestinians. It is so overwhelming at times, that I simply cannot look at the news any more. The social media responses, on the other hand, toxify my soul and generate a rage that I know is not healthy.

I simply do not know what the future will hold for British Muslim and Jewish relations. Suffice as to say there will be much mistrust and a desire not to talk about the conflict when in each other’s company. Yet, by pushing these issues under the carpet, only the extremists gain.

They continue to have purpose and clarity in capturing souls that they can use for conflict.

If there is to be any healing, we need years of talking, healing and the development of an environment where we can be honest and not fear being treated like outcasts if we raise difficult things. We also need to create the safe spaces to listen to each other, however difficult that may be.

However, I fear that in today’s weaponised social media world, honesty can be turned into ‘attack points’. Let us hope that I am wrong.

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