UK Politics

David Hirsh on the MPAC Amateurs

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Jews and Muslims in the UK have much in common. Much anti-Muslim racism takes the form that anti-Jewish racism took 70 years ago. Many predominately Muslim neighbourhoods, such as parts of the East End of London, were predominately Jewish then. Jews were demonized as foreigners, importing their foreign ways and their foreign wars. They were thought to be unwilling or unable to integrate into British society, preferring their exotic ways of dressing, sticking stubbornly to their unintelligible foreign languages, worshiping their un-Christian gods. Jews, as well as Muslims, are portrayed as uncivilized and violent, persisting with strange and cruel ritual slaughter of animals, mixing allegiances to Britain with all sorts of foreign and communal loyalties; they are portrayed as rejecting sexual and individual freedom in favour of out-dated patriarchal, homophobic, family-dominated and religious ways of living. They are portrayed as being clannish and closed, superior, unwilling to mix and to integrate. The racists say the same things about Muslims and about Jews: their men’s beards are thought to be dirty and their women are thought to be enslaved, exotic and unattainable.

The politics of communal self-defence are fraught and complicated. Ethnic communities are far from homogenous; some Jews, some Muslims are secular, some are religious; some are left wing, some are right wing; some are socially conservative, some are socially liberal; some are straight, some are gay; such communities include people descended from radically different parts of the world with many different religious and cultural traditions. Communal self-defence is about building a coalition of these differences around the central and pressing need to oppose racism and demonization. And communal self-defence must aim to look outward, to make alliances, to organize on an egalitarian basis. It must oppose all racisms otherwise it will degenerate into gang warfare rather than self-defence.

MPAC (Muslim Public Affairs Committee) aims to organize Muslims and it argues against the violence of the Jihadi fundamentalists. It aims to give Muslims a much needed political voice and it aims to draw young members particularly, of the community, into political activity. It aims to speak for Muslims in the media and to oppose the racism that is found there so often.

MPAC is engaged in an important project, one that requires political flair and sophistication. It is all the more depressing then, that MPAC often resorts to puerile propaganda against Jews and against what it refers to as “Zionism”. This anti-Jewish agitation disrupts efforts to organize Muslim communal self-defence and to link it with other anti-racist struggles. It seems that the leaders of MPAC do not have the political or intellectual commitment to educate themselves on the question of antisemitism. They either don’t know or they don’t care. Or the truth may be worse. It may be that they do understand what they are doing and that their project is to unite British Muslims around contempt for Jews and hatred of Israel.

Sometimes people involved in Jewish communal politics have been tempted to respond to the demonization of “Zionism” and antisemitism by demonizing Muslims in return; to change the target of the demonization rather than oppose it.

MPAC seem to have learnt from the very worst traditions of communal politics. True, they are better than the Jihadists, who encourage young people to blow themselves up on the tube, who delight in beheading Jews, videoing the spectacle and sending it to Al Jazeera. But being better than the Jihadists isn’t enough. Muslims need political organization in the UK but they deserve more sophisticated spokespeople than the amateurs at MPAC. It is unbelievable that someone who wants to speak for Muslims in public and who wants to discuss antisemitism, doesn’t have the political sophistication to understand that David Irving is not a reliable political ally in a struggle against racist demonization.

That’s basically the point, isn’t it?

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