UK official: Koran has been politicized

Anti-Semitism conference in J'lem sees launch of international activist coalition, scholarly association.

anti-Semitism 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
anti-Semitism 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
"Islam and the Koran have been politicized" by extremists and "there's a lack of capacity in the Muslim community [in Britain ]" to hear liberal, tolerant Muslims, Maqsood Ahmed, senior adviser on Muslim communities at the British Department for Communities and Local Government, told the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism on Sunday. The inability to hear the voices of tolerant Islam "isn't someone else's problem. It's a problem of the Muslim community," Ahmed, one of Britain 's most senior interfaith officials, told the gathering at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem. It is important not to let radicals use the accusation of "Islamophobia" to hide their prejudice, Ahmed continued, but it was also important "to look at how interfaith can prevent Islamophobia." One of the initiators of a London conference of imams and rabbis in 2006, Ahmed noted that "in Britain, there is a need for mutual partnership between the Jewish and Muslim communities, and this could be facilitated by the infrastructure established by the majority religion, the Church of England." The forum, which is meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday and Monday, focused on anti-Semitism worldwide, but added a specific focus on rampant anti-Semitic messages in Arab and Muslim media and religious institutions, including blood libels and references to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The forum hosted 280 participants, including ministers and parliamentarians from 45 countries. It also saw the announcement of the launch of a new international coalition of governments and NGOs intended to combat anti-Semitism and a new scholarly organization intended to advance the study of the "oldest hatred." The International Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA) was announced Sunday evening by Canadian MP Irwin Cotler and British MP John Mann. The organization will fill what many anti-racism activists see as a gap in international efforts to coordinate the many organizations and government initiatives worldwide dealing with anti-Semitism to bring "a critical mass of inquiry and advocacy" to the issue worldwide, according to Cotler. "We're witnessing a new, global, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism without parallel or precedent since World War II," said Cotler of the initiative. "It is not only essential to sound the alarm, but it's time to act." The ICCA will deal with two forms of anti-Semitism, Cotler told The Jerusalem Post. The "most benign form" is the escalation of anti-Semitic hate crimes in Europe and elsewhere, Holocaust denial, the singling out of Israel and boycotts of Jews and Israeli nationals. Anti-Semitism's "lethal form," he continued, "is state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, with its epicenter in Ahmadinejad's Iran and including terrorist movements which have genocide as their objective, anti-Semitism as their ideology and terrorism as their instrument." "We must now concern ourselves specifically with anti-Semitic terrorism, in which Jews are targeted as Jews," Cotler added. In announcing the new initiative with Cotler, Mann called for the Global Forum to be held in London next year. Of combating anti-Semitism, Mann said: "The question for everyone here and for elected politicians is this: 'If not me, then who? If not now, then when?' The question is not 'what would I have done?' The question is 'what will I do?'" The first step for the new group will be to set up a "steering committee" composed of parliamentarians, scholars and NGO heads who will establish task forces on a host of anti-Semitism-related issues. These include anti-Semitism in the Muslim and Arab worlds, the parallels between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, boycotts that single out Israel, anti-Semitism at the UN, and best practices - such as legislation or activism initiatives - that can be copied from one country to others. Also Sunday, Dr. Charles Small, director of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, announced the formation of a scholarly association meant to unite and help scholars and institutions that study anti-Semitism. No such organization currently existed for the study of anti-Semitism, said Small, while just four academic institutes worldwide focused on the phenomenon. The new International Association for the Study of Anti-Semitism will represent scholars "regardless of their school of thought, scientific approaches, academic discipline, or ideological opinion," according to a Yale University press release. As with other scholarly organizations, it will organize conferences and oversee publication of research in the field. According to Small, it is "imperative to engage in education during these times when some national leaders and social movements call openly for the destruction of Israel and its people in the most heinous manner, while other leaders and scholars in other parts of the world do not want to fathom this rapidly changing reality. It is the responsibility of scholars to understand and assess the current state of anti-Semitism" and "the destructive forces it unleashes, which affect [not only Jews, but] many [others as well]. This we know from history." The organization's Interim Executive Committee will initially be composed of directors of the four anti-Semitism study institutes operating today: Wolfgang Benz of the Technical University of Berlin, Robert Wistrich of Hebrew University , Dina Porat of Tel Aviv University and Small at Yale.