Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Jewish & Muslim Links Which Run Deep

How many people realise that the turning point of social action against the British National Party in 2010 involved joint co-operation and a desire to defeat the Far Right by Muslim and Jewish business people in the United Kingdom. The individuals shall no doubt remain nameless and faceless, yet their courage and their willingness to put their hands in their pockets and support organisations like Searchlight and others meant that the Barking & Dagenham fightback against the extremist British National Party had begun. Tens of thousands of pounds were mobilized through a few meetings and the money targeted to ensure that the Far Right threat would never be realized in the constituency.

The subsequent electoral defeat of the BNP and its fall from grace for local voters meant that the Party was over as a threat to the political landscape of this country. Such alliances and partnerships between Muslims and Jews at a strategic level never come out, but they happen on a daily, monthly and yearly basis, people from both communities coming together for the common good.

There is a change in Jewish and Muslim relations that has taking place over the last 5 years which is seeing such strategic alliances flourish and grow for both communities; a mature approach to community development and community protection that also takes into account a civic duty to ensure that extreme groups are pushed out of the political spectrum of our country. This joint collaboration in 2010 is just one example and there are many others taking place. I for one salute those who are willing to move beyond their comfort zones and work with others for the common good. They are real heroes for our country and for our communities.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A re-writing of history based on a narrow and prejudiced view of Muslims

Well, well, well. One of the reasons behind the production of the educational booklet, the Role of Righteous Muslims was to counter the sheer chutzpah of a growing number of people who attempted to re-write history and suggest that the vast and overwhelming majority of 'Arabs' and 'Muslims' (note the vast sweeping statement), were behind the Nazis in the Second World War. The strategy here by these individuals was to associate these two groups, (even though there are also Arab Christians) with the Nazis and thereby demonize them. Another reason for the publication of the Righteous Muslims booklet was to inform Muslim communities of case histories where Muslims put themselves at risk to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust and such work is much needed.

Now coming to the point of Arabs and Muslims being predominantly behind the Nazis - what I would call a revisionist view driven by prejudicial hate against these groups. In taking this position, such individuals chose to forget those Muslims from the Indian subcontinent, nearly 700,000 of them who fought on the side of the British. They also chose to forget the North African and West African Muslims who fought on the French side or the Harkis who were so let down by the French colonialists. Or the East African Muslims in Uganda and Kenya who fought for King & Country, just to name a few Muslim communities. Whilst we cannot also overlook those within Bosnia who fought on the side of the Nazis, the overwhelming majority of Muslims fought against the Nazis. Yet, revisionists are still at it - trying to re-write history to suit their twisted perception of history. It is also interesting to note that these revisionists who regard themselves as activists against Fascism and Nazism, find themselves on the same side as groups like the English Defence League, a real Far Right group which tries to pass itself off as some populist street based movement against 'radical Islam.' There is nothing radical about the Muslims  on Twitter that they abuse or Muslims in general who come in for attack by EDL sympathisers and their social media accounts.

I just hope such revisionists wake up and move away from narratives that are really in line with extremist groups. There is good and bad in all communities, but making Muslims out to be de-facto Nazis is not only untrue, it is malicious, twisted and downright scandalous.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Clash of Beliefs: Secularism and Faith Communities and the Need for InterAction on Shared Values

The recent speech at the Vatican by Baroness Warsi on militant secularism and the aggressive stance that it has taken against faith and faith communities, sparked a debate for a few days in the UK and followed on from her recent speech in which she stated that anti-Muslim sentiments were now part of the after dinner discussion in many living rooms in Britain. The debate on faith has many times been heated and intemperate and secularists and faith communities have taken increasingly aggressive positions, though the former having been angered that faith communities have become increasingly prominent in the public sphere since the premiership of the Tony Blair and his desire to see faith brought into public platforms.

Between the bus poster campaigns, the London Underground poster card campaigns and the various dearth of magazine articles suggesting that there probably is no God and others suggesting that there is a Creator and he loves us all, the haze of a media war has left outcomes blurred and with some strange alliances being made by both sides. Yet, recently secular groups and leading media pundits like Dawkins have been of late, on the attack against faith communities suggesting that they are somehow ‘irrational’, somehow ‘illogical’ and racked by superstition and religious guilt. As you can imagine, this has not gone down well at all and we have reached a point where many people of faith feel that the next threat to such communities comes from what they regard as ‘militant secularists.’

Yet within all of these discussions there does seem to be a bizarre confluence of sort. Both faith communities and secularists talk about the protection of human rights and the need to ensure that all people are free from hate crime, as well embracing the diversity of communities, at least in the mainstream of these two communities. They agree that there will always be tensions between the two and that there will be those who believe in faith and those who do not, despite the sometimes heated and aggressive public debates. Dawkins also agrees that elements of faith such as Christmas carols, architectural designs based on faith and the visions of faith that inspired men and women to greater social heights for example, are things that he has not disagreement on. Indeed he says that even enjoys singing carols at Christmas time. All well and good, though it is usually the history of faith and issues around personal choice and religious traditions that most irk the secularists. So, in fairness there are confluence points and there has been very little focus on developing these areas so that some form of trust can be built up before the more difficult issues are tackled.

So the next 2 – 3 years should be based on faith communities and secularists (including the more militant tendencies) trying to support greater discussions on looking at areas where they may be some commonality whilst also legitimately debating areas of disagreement. Much has been done on interfaith dialogue and so entrenched has this form of activity become that it will continue to roll on and gather pace. However, little has been done on what I call the need for InterAction on Shared Values between these two groups. These engagements will shape the future for engagement between faith and non-faith communities and Baroness Warsi’s comments have simply brought these issues to the foreground of social debates. If anything, I believe that she has done the debate a great service. She has honestly said what needed to be said; that we need to talk about the difficult issues and stop hiding in the shadows, whilst attempting to score points against ‘the other’. That helps no-one, let alone the Allmighty, if there is one.