british muslims 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
In an attempt to build bridges and to debate the issues that divide the two communities, a leader from one of the UK's largest Muslim organization addressed a Jewish audience in London for the first time on Monday night.
Inayat Bunglawala, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said his organization's ties with the Muslim Brotherhood shouldn't be a barrier to ties between the two communities, as they don't seek to undermine Jews in the UK. He added that the Muslim Brotherhood believes the creation of Israel was a tragic mistake.
He said he understood the issue of Hamas was problematic: "They have no intention to recognize Israel. Until they move on, that I can understand why it is a point of contention."
"I wish progress would be made on the Middle East peace process but don't see why that should prevent good ties between Jews and Muslims here," he said.
Bunglawala faced a barrage of questions on why his
group boycotts the annual Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.
He said that Muslim Council was a young organization, this year celebrating its 10th anniversary, and didn't have the long experience the Board of Deputies of British Jews has. With regards to Holocaust Memorial Day, he said their position was "under review" and they were consulting with British Muslims on the issue.
Bunglawala was speaking as part of a panel discussion organized by the Jewish Community Center for London.
Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bunglawala said people were so passionate and had such strong opinions about the issue that both communities should concentrate on shared areas to first build up trust so people could talk more freely about it.
"There are so many areas we need to concentrate on first, where we have so much commonality, and build up trust and respect before we talk about Israel-Palestine," he said. The panel members also included Independent journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.
She said the Muslim Council did not represent her. "Nobody who is not elected can represent anybody. Faith has a place but when religion became politicized and politics became 'religionized,' as we've seen in the 21st century, both sides lose out," she said.
She said the fact that the Muslim Council boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day was becoming irrelevant, as there were many Muslims who took it upon themselves to commemorate it.
Alibhai-Brown also said it was a fair criticism to ask why there was so much attention focused on Israel when there were "far worse atrocities" occurring around the globe, adding that if equal attention paid to other conflicts, "the sense of rage would pass."
"I want to talk about Israel-Palestine, but I also want to talk to Jewish people about Darfur and Kashmir. What seems to me unfortunate is that this one emblematic place is absorbing so much attention at the expense of the absolutely unacceptable genocides going by and nobody is saying anything.
"I think it is absolutely right when British Jews ask us how come we don't talk about Darfur. I think it is a fair question," she said.
In an interview in this week's Jewish Chronicle, Bunglawala said, "Muslim communities must take more responsibility to ensure that criticism of Israel's policies does not slide into casual anti-Semitism."
The best way to encourage this is to ensure that grassroots ties prosper between our communities."
He said that Jews and Muslims needed to work together, as they did in 2004 when they defeated the recommendation by the Farm and Animal Welfare Council's recommendation to ban shechita and halal ritual slaughter, and on common issues such as combating racism and upholding the right of parent to send their children to faith-based schools.