Justin Cohen
Justin Cohen

Loudmouth kicks his own community in attacking Israel

Golders Green Hippodrome building, which is now a mosque and Islamic centre (Jewish News)
Golders Green Hippodrome building, which is now a mosque and Islamic centre (Jewish News)

If there’s one thing British Muslims and Jews can live without it’s a guide to interfaith relations from employees of that bastion of inclusivity and harmony, Press TV.

But that didn’t stop Roshan Salih, a contributor to the UK arm of the Iranian propaganda station and editor of the 5Pillars website, spelling out his vision.

The loudmouth, who led calls for the Golders Green mosque to cancel an exhibit on Muslim heroes of the Holocaust because it was supported by Yad Vashem, said on Twitter: “If Muslims want to do interfaith with Jews to learn about their religion and encourage peaceful coexistence I suggest we do it with these guys,” – attaching a picture of supporters of the tiny ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta sect which calls for the end of Israel and has embraced Holocaust-questioning former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Salih has plenty of form. He notoriously characterised a Mitzvah Day project bringing together Jews and Muslims to make chicken soup as “soft infiltration of the Muslim community” by Zionists. Less well known is that when the head of the Muslim charity that backed the soup project penned an article for this newspaper, Salih publicly suggested he had no business writing for an Israeli outlet. Why? Because Jewish News has a digital partnership with Times of Israel.

One of Roshan’s controversial tweets

Similarly, the Board of Deputies’ Chanukah reception was apparently a ‘Zionist’ event and the community’s two main newspapers ‘pro-Israel rags’. In fact, one of the only times Salih appears ready to call a Jew a Jew is in reference to Neturei Karta. The former – bad. The latter – good.

This exhibition may have been utterly apolitical but Jews should never be expected to renounce Israel as a pre-condition for engagement. The inconvenient fact for him is that while British Jews may be more willing to criticise Israeli government policy than in years gone by, research from City University in 2015 showed 93 percent see Israel as part of their identity.

Let’s be clear: he won’t ever drive a wedge through communities in Britain, which remain a beacon for Jewish-Muslim activity.

Countless projects under the auspices of the Board of Deputies and Mitzvah Day continue apace. Salih’s voice is far from being applauded by prominent Muslim leaders and his cheerleaders remain conspicuous by their absence. In this context, it is all too easy to dismiss him.

But his vile campaign did help scupper an utterly apolitical initiative in Golders Green and has come close to doing so elsewhere.

But it’s what hasn’t happened that is also striking. With the exception of Faith Matters’ Fiyaz Mughal, where are the high-profile Muslim leaders speaking out against this hateful campaign that is to the detriment of their own community?

It’s welcome that another mosque in north London has stepped in to host the event, although it’s tragic that the specific venue and identities of its organisers have had to be kept under wraps to due security concerns.

If even the most apolitical social action charity is out of bounds because it’s founder was pictured with the Israeli ambassador, if a Holocaust education event that highlights Muslim heroism is unconscionable because it is sponsored by Jerusalem educators, where else is there to turn?

If everyone who loves Tel Aviv beach or their iPhone – or simply isn’t buying that Israel is the world’s great evil – are on his blacklist, it’s no wonder Salih is only left with Neturei Karta – who make up less than 0.03 percent of the world’s Jewish population.

To be honest, I thought twice about writing this piece as I’ve little doubt Salih welcomes the attention (so keen is he to shout about out every mention he gets in the Jewish press). But there must be no doubt about the self-destructive path on which Roshan Salih would lead his own community in the pursuit of kicking Israel.

And the minuscule number of activists in the Jewish community who also spoke out against the Golders Green mosque exhibition need to realise that being on the same side as him on such an key issue is not a great look.

About the Author
Justin Cohen is News Editor of the Jewish News.
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