It’s not that I don’t like Melanie Phillips, I just can’t stand the sight of her [I’m trying not to notice!].
Actually I was intending to write this short piece even before the whole brouhaha over her “no such thing as Islamophobia” remarks erupted. As someone who has monitored her rantings for around thirteen years now they came as nothing new. Suffice to say her sobriquet “Mad Mel” is a richly deserved one. The fact that prominent Jewish personalities will likely remain silent (or even back her) speaks volumes and forms the subject of the subsequent address.
Islam is indeed a belief system and as such (though as a Muslim I believe it beyond reproach) in a liberal democracy it is open to critique and criticism like any other. The problem of “Islamophobia” is a nuanced one, however. At what point does fulmination against the belief cross over into incitement against its votaries?
To throw the question back at you, Melanie: would you accept public figures endlessly deriding Halakhaic law – berating its entrenched gender inequality (women have no right of divorce at all), its insistence on gender segregation (men are not permitted to shake hands with women), its illiberal penal codes (homosexual sex and sabbath breaking are both capital offences), its racist (sorry but it’s the only appropriate term for it) belief in the superiority of the Jewish people over the goyim (non-Jews) with attendant discriminatory laws, and its avowed commitment to genocide (Maimonides list of the 613 Mitzvots) – as merely “criticising Judaism”? Would it be anti-Semitic to publicly expostulate, ad nauseam, about Talmudic injunctions (and the extensive scholarly commentaries surrounding them) relating to the violability of the lives and properties of goyim? Such discussions are far from academic; one can point to the pronouncements of prominent rabbis in Israel and the United States to see how they fuel virulently anti-goy attitudes, providing justification for the most heinous acts of terror against defenceless men, women and children. If you’d be happy for such discussions to feature on an almost daily basis in mainstream media channels and to be linked to every instance of Jewish bad behaviour, domestically or abroad, then fair enough. If – and I strongly suspect you’d be howling “anti-Semitism” by the first documentary – you would class that as incitement then frankly stop with the hypocrisy already.
Now, to what I originally intended. I intend what follows as an open appeal to the Jewish community in the UK as I think it’s about time we had a full and frank discussion about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Anglo-Israeli relations.
To my fellow citizens of Jewish heritage,
Peace be upon those who follow guidance.
Unlike some I’ll spare you the platitudes about “shared Abrahamic heritage” and “huge commonality of beliefs”. We are both well aware of our shared claim to the patriarch Abraham (peace be upon him) as well as the similarities in our theology (most notably strict unitarian monotheism). Should you, however, need reminding once again then I’m sure Baroness Warsi or a representative of the MCB would be only too happy to oblige. What I wish to address herein is why so many Muslims have a problem with the mainstream Jewish community as well as some of the allegations vis-a-vis anti-Semitism being levelled at us (the Muslim mainstream).
Let’s cleave straight to the heart of the matter. It’s about Israel. Frankly for both you and for us. We aren’t happy about your unswerving support for a brutal, apartheid state that daily violates all civilised norms of behaviour in its treatment of our Palestinian brethren and you in turn aren’t happy that as our numbers grow (through new births and immigration) our objections in that regard gain increasing traction amongst the British political class. While lobby groups (Labour/Conservative Friends of Israel) can take you so far it’s always worth remembering that in a parliamentary democracy under the one man, one vote rubric, it is strength of numbers that ultimately carries the day. We are witnessing a slow but steady shift in the balance of political influence between the pro-Zionist Jewish mainstream and its anti-Zionist Muslim mainstream counterpart – in the latter’s favour. And let’s just be honest here, it’s this that really concerns you not the Facebook shenanigans (appalling as they often are) of a handful of Labour party members (Muslim or otherwise).
Most Muslims stand ready to condemn acts of intimidation and/or violence against Jews – including those openly displaying the regalia of Zionism.We agree there is no excuse for such thuggery and most of us also concede that as a community we need to do much more to rein in some of the zealots within our ranks who use the ongoing criminality of the Zionist entity as justification for their own. It’s wrong. Plain as. No excuses. By the same token, though, we expect much more from the Jewish mainstream when it comes to speaking out for those most basic of human dignities being denied the Palestinians (Muslim and Christian). Acts of wanton violence, including murder, against defenceless Palestinians going unpunished (or ‘punished’ with such derisory sentences as to make a complete mockery of the concept of justice). Home demolitions and land confiscations. Arbitrary road closures and humiliations at tortuous checkpoints. Refusal of building permits to Palestinians and the expansion of Jewish settlements as part of a twin programme “to alter facts on the ground”. The deliberate obscurantist policy adopted by the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council apropos these (and other) Israeli crimes – committed both by the IDF and the some half a million illegal settlers in the occupied territories – naturally drives a deep wedge between our communities here in Britain. Of course, we will never agree on the fundamental issue underlying this conflict and ultimately it is a conflict that will have to be resolved (in whichever way) by the peoples of the Middle East, not by those sat thousands of miles away. What we can agree upon is that we both need to move beyond exchanging the usual pleasantries and blandishments at interfaith dinners and pretending we don’t actually have a serious problem with the other.
Islam is not inherently anti-Semitic and the harsh criticisms the Qur’an levels at the Children of Israel are no worse than those contained in the Tanakh (the ‘Old Testament’ as Christians would refer to it). Historically the track record of Islam when it came to the treatment of its Jewish minorities was far better than Europe’s and I will never tire of reminding all and sundry that it was not Muslims that condemned some six million Jews to agonising, pitiful deaths. As such, we really don’t appreciate the machinations of some Jews to paint us as rabid anti-Semites intent on finishing what Hitler started. It is as grossly offensive to us as the blood libels around matzo and Christian children are to you. And while every community naturally seeks to “protect its own” such a policy must have its limits; going forward, therefore, we hope to see the mainstream Jewish community adopt a more vocal stance when it comes to denouncing provocations such as Melanie Phillips’.
May the peace and blessing of Allah be upon sayyidina Muhammad. Ameen.