A leading Muslim activist has warned “forward thinking” members of his community are being “held to ransom” by extremists, after Golders Green mosque abandoned an exhibition about Muslims who helped Jews during the Holocaust over security threats and the event’s links with Yad Vashem.
The Islamic centre was due to hold the exhibition about Muslim Albanians who rescued Jews on Sunday, to maintain dialogue with Jewish neighbours.
Calls for a boycott, spearheaded by Roshan Salih, editor of British Muslim news site 5 Pillars was called for over the event’s links to the Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. He said: “Commemorations must never be done in conjunction with Israeli oppressors or their supporters.” In response to the cancellation, he wrote that the mosque “is to be commended for responding to community concerns”.
Speaking to Jewish News, Fiyaz Mughal, Director of Faith Matters who has previously run an exhibition on the Muslim Righteous developed by the organisation, said members of the congregation were targeted and the mosque had been denounced as un-Islamic for holding an event associated with Israel’s national Holocaust memorial museum.
He said: “When a mosque is allegedly cowed into dropping an exhibition on the history and heritage of Muslims who saved Jews in the Holocaust, just because Yad Vashem is based in Israel, shows you how much progressive and forward thinking Muslims are held to ransom.”
Mughal added that when “Muslims can’t engage with even Yad Vashem because extremists threaten them.. enough is truly enough.”
Esmond Rosen of The Barnet Multi Faith Forum (BMFF) said the group is “extremely saddened and disappointed that this peaceful project, of illuminating the best values of human dignity, has been caught up in the international politics of the extremist.”
They said the Islamic centre’s intention “was to create peace and harmony amongst their neighbours, and the hostile actions of outside elements is an obvious set back to these ideals.”
BMFF added, that it wants to “ensure that the message of courage and bravery exemplified in these incredible stories transcend the political differences and drown out those voices of hatred attempting to disregard historical truths”.
The centre sent an email to organisers detailing concerns, with four links to articles criticising the exhibit, including one by Salih. The Press TV journalist then posted a statement on Twitter issued by the mosque, which says the event was cancelled as they “didn’t know of the international connections some organisations had or of the political affiliations … Once that was made clear the event was cancelled.”
They added the centre “has no connections to any foreign government and stays well clear of anything political or perceived to be political.
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive, Holocaust Educational Trust called the cancellation “a great shame”.
What would have been a positive initiative to highlight the role of Albanian Muslims who saved up to 1,800 Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, has been cancelled due to a targeted campaign against this Mosque and its members.”
Yad Vashem is a world-leader in Holocaust education, working to remember an unprecedented and unique era of history whose expertise is second to none. The power of the story of Muslims saving Jews during the Holocaust should not go unrecognised and we hope that this event will go ahead shortly in safety”.
Simon Bentley, chair of Yad Vashem UK Foundation said the organisation is “disappointed that this innovative and educational Yad Vashem produced mobile exhibition will not be part of the inter-faith initiative planned at the Centre for Islamic Understanding at the Hippodrome in Golders Green.”
They insist that the museum “is a non-political institution which is committed to imparting the memory of the victims and the events of the Shoah in order to accurately document one of the darkest chapters in the history of humanity and to keep the memory of the Holocaust relevant. This humanitarian mission includes honouring non-Jews who have risked their lives to save Jews during the Shoah. The BESA exhibition that was planned to be displayed at the Hippodrome highlights these Righteous Among the Nations by focusing on Albanian Muslims who saved Jewish lives during the Holocaust.”
“We regret that, due to external pressures, this exhibition will not be shown as planned.”
Rabbi Natan Levy, head of operations at Faith Forums for London, and one of the organisers behind the event, said: “We will continue to focus on building local relations even though this event has been cancelled. However, we are confident after reviewing plans there is goodwill to continue working with communities in Barnet.’
Levy called the exhibition “a powerful reminder that during the Jewish community’s darkest hour, the Muslim community in Albania were one of the few who did not stand by when the Nazis attempted to eradicate Jewish neighbours. It’s important to remember we have historically supported each other.”
Paul Charney, chairman of the Zionist Federation of the UK and Ireland, said: “Let’s be clear, when an interfaith event is capable of being cancelled due to the pressure from an extremist, namely the editor of the Islamist 5Pillars UK ‘news’ website, then both of our communities should be highly concerned. Roshan Salih is the man who decided that Mitzvah Day projects bringing Jews and Muslims together, is part of the “Zionist conspiracy”.
“To accept his comments that Yad Vashem is the secret conspiracy tool of Zionism, rather than the world recognised pre-eminent museum and memorial to the Holocaust, is a problem for us all. We would urge the Islamic Centre in Golders Green Hippodrome to reconsider their decision to cave in to this hate-filled, inflammatory and dangerous pressure and restore the peaceful community event originally organised.”