I won’t allow extremist bigots on any side stop me fighting hate

I have spent over 6 years of my life working on highlighting anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia, at points targeted by those who have sought to undermine the work since they don’t want Muslims to be heard.

I have also been targeted by those extreme anti-Muslim haters who have abused my colleagues and me for many years.

Much of this targeting has been relentless, meaning that I have had to change my lifestyle and my daily routes and I have had to develop a sense of personal awareness around me on the streets.

However, I will not allow extremist anti-Muslim bigots to intimidate me in my country. That will simply not happen.

Depressingly though, one of the most painful set of experiences for me has been how some campaigners and organisations who have been shouting loudly on tackling Islamophobia, have been the ones involved in the promotion of anti-Semitic discourse, driven by their obsessive focus on Israel and Palestine.

So overwhelming has been their focus on Israel and Palestine, that common sense on ensuring anti-Semitic free discourse about Jewish communities has been lost.

Mention Israel and Palestine and you see a sharp turn towards a zealotry that is pretty much the same as that which I see within anti-Muslim bigots.

This is in the form a belief that they are right, that the ‘other’ is the problem and in this case, that the problems in the Middle East can be resolved by ‘Zionism’ being removed from the Middle East.

Ask them what that means and the response becomes much more blurred and deeply worrying.

Additionally, take for example the fact that some of the campaigners speaking up to tackle Islamophobia, (a laudable and much needed initiative), have previously made comments about Jews being inextricable linked to Mossad, about work on tackling anti-Semitism by British Jews being used as a cover to protect Israel or even on occasion, implying the wholesale removal of Jews from Israel and their relocation to other countries, such as America.

Or take the fact that some of them have made open calls in mosques, placing the term ‘Zionist’ on members of Jewish communities whom have hardly met and in front of audiences who simply came to pray and who do not want to get sucked into listening to discourse which divides communities.

Or worst still, I have come across Islamophobia campaigners who have used ‘Whatsapp’ to bypass any traces of their anti-Semitism as they rage against ‘Zionists’ in the form of British Jews who have simply spoken up for Israel’s existence and with a complete disregard of the same people when they have spoken up for an end to the occupation in the West Bank.

You see their actions, in all fairness, are pretty close if not identical to the tactics which anti-Muslim haters use to vilify Muslim communities.

Yet, these individuals simply cannot see or fathom what they are doing.

It is these same campaigners who, when you scratch the surface, think that there are no such people as gay Muslims or that hate against LGBTQ communities should not even be mentioned, since it will irk the more Conservative elements within Muslim communities.

It is these same campaigners who even fail to mention intra-Muslim hatred and intolerance towards members of Shia or Ahmaddiya communities, with the latter being regarded as heretics and persona non-grata by these tin-pot activists.

You see, the roots of intolerance start with anti-Semitism, the age-old hatred, which is at the core of their intolerance. From there, the stem develops and branches out into a subtle acceptance of other forms of hatred.

Yet, when you mention Islamophobia, the rage and campaigning zeal of these groups and individuals reaches a crescendo point that drowns out logic and reason. Thankfully, however, the actions of some of these campaigners are being called out.

Finally, it is sad that this even needs to be stating but it must be said. It is possible to support the Palestinian cause for a homeland and viable Palestinian State without resorting to anti-Semitism and Jew hatred.

It is possible to stand with British Jewish communities and defend their safety and protection, whilst listening, reflecting and developing a strong bond and empathy with them, even when there are strong political differences on how Israeli governments are consolidating the occupation.

It is possible to have strong positions on issues such as the curtailment of the Islamic call to prayer between certain times in Israel and value wholeheartedly the history and the campaigning work around freedom of religion that tens of millions of Jews have been part of in the last decade alone.

It is also possible to just stop and listen to alternative views and to honour the person saying them by responding in a manner which maintains the dignity of those involved.

This is what is achievable and is undertaken by many in our communities and in our country, yet we barely hear about these people.

All we seem to hear from, are those who shout the loudest and in some circumstances, care little about others through their self-absorbed narcissism.

About the Author
Fiyaz is the Founder and Director of Faith Matters, which works on countering extremism, community integration and monitoring hate crime work. He is also the Founder of the national Islamophobia Monitoring Group, Tell MAMA, and was it's Director from 2011-2016. He has worked on supporting better Muslim and Jewish relations for over 17 years.
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