This is a guest post by Ami.
At the Darfur demo this weekend, there was a much bigger crowd than usual, so much so that there were not enough T-shirts to go round, to add to my collection. (I went to a demo and didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt! I found this one a little too trying -to -be -cool to wear at my age anyway: It was red and said, I think, “fashionably late? Stop fcuking around. Time is running out for Darfur”
Among the speakers was Daoud Abdullah, deputy secretary General of MCB, (which he introduced as the most representative Muslim body in Britain) who delivered a stirring call to action. I was impressed with his speech generally, also with his inclusion of the Arab League in the list of international bodies to whom he issued the call to action.
He passionately declaimed: Genocide in Rwanda is wrong! Genocide in Bosnia is wrong! Genocide in Darfur is wrong! I was impressed by this unequivocal naming of what is happening in Darfur; none of this little local clash over resources.
Then I waited for the spurious reference to genocide in Palestine, but it never came. (I have been to a Darfur meeting picketed by self identified Sudanese Arabs with placards saying Palestine: the real genocide) But then I thought: hold on, what about Armenia, and hold on, what about the Big One?
Maybe I missed it,(his stentorian delivery overcame the sound system at times) but judging from the following, it is unlikely, unless he has turned over a very new leaf:
“It is understood that Daud Abdullah, the deputy secretary general, and affiliate members from the Muslim Association of Britain joined forces to oppose the lifting of the ban [on MCB attending Holocaust Memorial day] at the meeting last November.”
I checked with some UJS Students and they didn’t hear it mentioned either. The strong Jewish presence there in the form of students, a contingent of elders [but not Elders] from Hampstead synagogue with their Rabbi, Rabbis for Human Rights (I assume they are the same group who guard olive trees in Palestinian groves) Habonim Zionist youth in uniform, and not forgetting Richard Kuper of JFJFP- would happily provide antisemitic conspiracy theorists of the “Darfur is a Zionist/Jewish diversionary campaign” persuasion, with ample material to be getting on with. They also clearly duped many of the young Darfuris into wearing the UJS sweatshirts proclaiming: ‘We said “never again,” again and again.’
As for some of the other speakers: there was the regular Andrew Mitchell, Shadow development Sec of Conservative Party, who spoke sensibly, making sure to get in the maximum number of references to Conservative Party and David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.
Lynn Featherstone of Libdems said that for once we should copy the US in relation to Darfur (but I couldn’t hear in what regard)
But no one from Labour. (Gordon Brown has Darfur on his first 100 days to do list though)
Among the other speakers was Holocaust survivor Martin Stern. He had walked from the detention centre near Cambridge in the company of asylum seekers who are in danger of being sent back to Khartoum. (for more on this and a way of educating people on the issues while taking your daily constitutional, see http://www.walk4darfur.org/)
When he said this was a genocide being visited on Muslims by Muslims, which degraded their religion, the Darfuris around me applauded. For Mr Stern, of course the Shoa informs his sense of urgency and the moral impetus to speak out.
As for Mr Abdullah: perhaps he should be given the benefit of the doubt; maybe his frame of reference (unlike that of Mr Stern) was more recent genocides; it was good anyway to see MCB finally putting themselves unequivocally behind this campaign.
There is a program on Darfur being recorded on Doughty St from 6.00 to 6.30 tonight, with Alan Mendoza chairing.