OPINION: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia threaten both our communities

OPINION: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia threaten both our communities

Fiyaz Mughal promotes interfaith and conflict resolution
Fiyaz Mughal promotes interfaith and conflict resolution

By Fiyazz Mughal, Director, Faith Mattershttp://faith-matters.org/ )

Fiyaz Mughal promotes interfaith and conflict resolution
Fiyaz Mughal promotes interfaith and conflict resolution

For the past two years, I have dedicated a lot of time, personal safety and peace of mind to setting up and delivering the Tell MAMA (www.tellmamauk.org) project nationally.

The work involves mapping, measuring and monitoring anti-Muslim hatred nationally, while supporting victims who have suffered it.

Much of this work is pressurised, with ISIS, the Rotherham grooming case, international crises and local home-grown terrorism spiking the hatred off-line and on-line and where visible Muslim women have been the targets.

Mosques have also been key targets and after the brutal murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013 we monitored more than 35 that were attacked within 12 weeks in England and Wales.

Much of our work has been affected by far-Right sympathisers, glib and loose anti-Muslim rhetoric on-line, targeted incidents against mosques and the opportunistic hate incidents targeted at Muslim women.

Yet we have also seen some individuals who support groups like UKIP involved in fiery anti-Muslim rhetoric and this remains a problem.

This work has also exposed us to the levels of anti-Semitism that, sadly, still live and breathe in sections of communities. One of the most worrying examples of this was in the social media feeds during the Gaza war promoting hashtags such as #Hitlerwasright.

Others promoted anti-Semitic tropes involving the Rothschilds and blood libel stories, with ‘Zionism’ also used as a catch-all word in much the same way as ’Islamism’ is used by some individuals who try to promote anti-Muslim hatred.

Sadly, some social commentators downplay this anti-Muslim trend and like to suggest it is in no way similar to anti-Semitism.

This is nonsensical.

Let me take the similarities. After the murder of Lee Rigby and the recent Rotherham grooming trials, Muslim women and Islamic institutions suffered hate incidents and law-abiding citizens were affected by being targeted because of their faith.

The blame, it seems, has been laid at the feet of innocent Muslim men and women going about their business, with hate rhetoric involving language associating Muslims with paedophilia, cockroaches, vermin, rats and bacteria.

Much of this language will resonate with those who have studied anti-Semitism and there are clear similarities between anti-Semitic discourse, relations between powerful countries and impacts on victims with anti-Muslim prejudice.

The triggers may be different, but it is clear national or international incidents trigger spikes in reporting.

For example, Gaza led to a major increase in news reporting of anti-Semitism incidents in July, as reported by the CST. And the murder of Lee Rigby and Rotherham also led to spikes picked up by Tell MAMA in anti-Muslim reporting in July 2013 and August 2014.

Yet, we must also admit some elements of rhetoric, trigger factors and historical interpretations of events between anti-Semitic discourse and anti-Muslim prejudice are different.

Downplaying and denigrating anti-Muslim hatred therefore helps no community, since there is a need to tackle both prejudices collectively.

There are complexities in this work which need to be mentioned.

We have come across small sections in Jewish communities which promote anti-Muslim rhetoric. But we have also come across a larger population (given the numbers) of individuals within Muslim communities promoting anti-Semitism.

This was seen clearly in the six weeks of the Gaza war.

Indeed, a number of the cases the CST picked up in the course of that conflict came from Muslims.

Therefore there are issues of community education that need to be addressed. We cannot have prejudice being targeted at a community because of the actions of the Israeli government, nor can Muslims be caricatured as terrorists, extremists or de-facto homophobes.

We have to have these honest conversations.

It is right and important to do so, so those who seek to sew divisions between Muslims and Jews are not given the opportunity.

Our safety and security collectively matter.

With this in mind, there is much work to be done together; without it, the virus of prejudice and bigotry will continue to mutate.

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