Muslims Against Anti-Semitism (MAAS), “a collective group of British Muslims who believe that antisemitism within Muslim communities has gone on for far too long”, have established their organisation and its mission statement with a post in the Telegraph and the Times entitled “We Muslims have one word for Jews. Shalom.”[1]

The post reads:

As British Muslims, we believe that the time has come to speak out. For far too long, anti-Semitism has gone unchecked. Sadly, it has become entrenched across society. Its poison can be found in all political parties and among followers of all faiths, including Islam.

Eradicating it is a challenge faced by all of us.

We understand that many in our country empathise with the Palestinians and their right to a sovereign state. We welcome the defence of the rights of all people.

However, we must be ever vigilant against those who cynically use international issues to vilify Jews or promote anti-Semitic tropes. There is no cause that can justify the promotion of hate.

Just as we challenge those who recycle anti-Muslim tropes, we stand firmly against racism directed at our Jewish sisters and brothers.

As Muslims, we believe that our future peace, security and prosperity in this great country cannot be ensured while Jewish communities feel under threat. It is our duty to speak out against all forms of hatred and bigotry – against anti-Semitism no less than anti-Muslim hatred.

To our Jewish sisters and brothers, we say the struggle against one of history’s oldest and most virulent hatreds is not your fight alone but ours collectively.

In peace, we say these words:

Hiney ma tov u’ma-nayim, Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad.[2]

It was signed by the leaders of groups such as Faith Matters (a Muslim anti-extremism group), the Association of British Muslims, and Tell MAMA, an organisation dealing with anti-Muslim attacks. It was also signed by senior police officers, human rights activists, and interfaith champions. The Board of Deputies of British Jews took to Twitter to praise the ad, tweeting “Incredible solidarity – a full page ad by Muslim sisters & brothers in today’s @Telegraph. Thank you. Together we will defeat the twin evils of antisemitism & anti-Muslim hate”. The Board of Deputies joined Tell MAMA earlier this month in condemning Islamophobia[3].

The timing of the ad is significant as it is the start of Ramadan and comes after “the deadliest week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2014” after the new US embassy to Israel opened in Jerusalem, marking the official acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel[4]. In addition, the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingston resigned from the Labour Party on the Monday 21st May over allegations of anti-Semitism[5].

Reaction to the ad on social media Twitter seems to be mainly positive.

Who are MAAS?

MAAS’ website acknowledges that, while the “vast majority of Muslims do not promote or condone anti-Semitism”, “there is a substantial set of people within Muslim communities who circulate anti-Semitic tropes and who use the Palestinians and their quest for statehood, as a means of targeting Jewish communities”[6].

MAAS views this as unacceptable. Their website states, “We therefore are making a stand, driven by a strong sense of social justice that comes from our Islamic faith, to counter anti-Semitism within Muslim communities through educational programmes in schools and community centres, by challenging Islamist extremism which fuels anti-Semitism and through directed online campaigns that [reach] out to wider audiences”[7].

The organisation believes that through education, relations between Jews and Muslims can be improved, and it is encouraging those from both the Muslim and Jewish communities to get in contact with them as, “Only by understanding one another and developing an empathy, can we expect others to defend us against the scourge of anti-Muslim hatred”[8].

A recent article published by MAAS in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, and written by Fiyaz Mughal OBE, the Director of Faith Matters and the Founder of TellMAMA, identifies three sets of ‘activists’ responsible for anti-Semitism. The first set is made up of some British Muslims. It “can be further subdivided into active Islamists; into those who are not aware or do not consciously recognize that the material is anti-Semitic; and into those British Muslims who simply aren’t bothered if the messages are anti-Semitic. The latter often seem to believe that defending the Palestinian cause is a license to open anti-Semitism”. The second set is amongst the far left, many of whom, the article notes, “have attempted to rejoin and enter the Corbynite Labour Party”. The final set is made up of far-right sympathisers “and those who hate Jews because of “old-school” far right anti-Semitism”. All three sets, it notes, use the Palestinian cause in attempt to justify their actions[9].

Making the link between Islamist extremism and the Corbynite Labour Party, Mughal notes there has been “an ideological convergence between Islamist extremists and the far left around the necessity to “counter colonialism” and on disrupt “Western decadence” and its “materialism”.” Muslim extremists do not only seek out those on the far-left in an attempt to build bridges between the two, the far-left are also seeking out Muslim extremists, the article notes. Anti-Semitic Muslims also target Muslim minorities they do not agree with, resulting in increasing intra-Muslim sectarian hate. Mughal notes that Muslims who denounce anti-Semitism are also subject to attacks from Islamists as they attempt to “take control” of the faith[10].

Anti-Semitism from Islamists rests on the idea that anything Jewish is automatically considered Israeli and therefore Zionist, and therefore bad. Anything Jewish is therefore considered completely dichotomous from anything Muslim, and Mughal asserts that it is this dichotomy that attracts so many young people to Islamist ideals. On the other side, anti-Muslim hatred increases amongst those who see Muslims as an existential threat. Among some of these individuals, Jewish symbols, including the flag, are used to “bait Muslims”[11].

Mughal writes, “As a British Muslim, I can honestly say that I have never seen the U.K. as fractured and polarized as now, and where anti-Semitism has become so deeply rooted in some parts of the British Muslim community … We are truly at a dangerous juncture and it will take people of courage to speak out. At the very least, more Muslims can speak out and challenge the anti-Semitism within. If we fail to do so, we can forget ever talking about equality, justice and tackling racists. It is those who speak at times where things seem overwhelming, who can lead the way. God knows, we need them more than ever”[12].

Mughal’s organisation, Faith Matters, also reportedly joined the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism earlier this month to call on Britain’s Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to a parade planned for London next month because of its inclusion of the flags of Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group[13].

[1] MAAS, 2018a; MAAS, 2018b.

[2] MAAS, 2018b.

[3] JTA, 2018; Jewish News Online, 2018.

[4] Jewish News Online, 2018.

[5] Staff, 2018.

[6] MAAS, 2018a.

[7] MAAS, 2018a.

[8] MAAS, 2018a.

[9] Mughal, 2018.

[10] Mughal, 2018.

[11] Mughal, 2018.

[12] Mughal, 2018.

[13] JTA, 2018.

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Jewish News Online. (2018) ‘British Muslims write letter opposing anti-Semitism: ‘The time has come to speak out’’. [online] 17 May. [Accessed 21 May 2018].

JTA. (2018) ‘British Muslim Group Denounces anti-Semitism in Full Page Newspaper Ad’. [online] 21 May. [Accessed 21 May 2018].

MAAS. (2018a) ‘About Us’. [online] [Accessed 21 May 2018].

MAAS. (2018b) Tweet. [online] [Accessed 21 May 2018].

Mughal, F. (2018) ‘We Muslims Need to Talk About Muslim Anti-Semitism’. [online] 15 May. [Accessed 21 May 2018]. Staff. (2018) ‘UK Muslim Groups Take Out Full-Page Ads Denouncing Anti-Semitism’. [online] 22 May. [Accessed 22 May 2018].