News

Following recent revelations of Islamophobic behaviour from members of the Conservative Party, the Muslim Council of Wales has contacted the Chairman of the Conservatives, Rt Hon Brandon Lewis, to express our concerns about Islamophobia in the party and are calling on him to conduct an independent inquiry into the issues. Our full letter to the Chairman can be seen below:

The Muslim Council of Wales takes seriously the dangers of anti-Semitism, and commits itself to addressing, challenging and combating anti-Semitism in society.

As part of our work building relationships, we are proud to have been the first Muslim organisation to host the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Ephraim Mirvis. In addition, we have held collaborative interfaith events, such as a talk by a Holocaust survivor (Ruth Barnett) in a mosque, exhibitions on Jewish and Muslim solidarity, and we regularly meet with representatives of the Jewish faith.

Many proponents of anti-Semitism envision a society in which the religious and ethnic identities of minorities are eradicated, and so there is often a strong overlap with Islamophobia. This operates in reverse too; those who engage in Islamophobia can easily turn their rhetoric, hatred, and violence, towards Jewish communities. Given this, it is incredibly important Muslims and Jews cooperate in tackling both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

We utilise the following definition of anti-Semitism, and will implement it to ensure it is institutionally understood. It is taken from the European Union’s Campaign Against Antisemitism.

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

For comparison, we operate with the following definition of Islamophobia from the University of Berkeley.

“Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve “civilizational rehab” of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.”

We note that while there are many similarities between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, there are also significant areas of difference.

Jewish history in Europe, for example, has included significant acts of violence, most notably the Holocaust, but also other acts of discrimination, exclusion, and persecution. This has been embedded within European cultural memory, European institutions, language, and cultural idioms.

Another point of difference between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism is that European relationships with Muslims have been largely predicated on empire and imperialism, and this has a lasting impact on contemporary relationships. This large-scale global exploitation, violence, and oppression not only affects relationships between Muslim citizens in European countries, but also the relationships between states in the West and Muslim-majority countries.

Nonetheless, the mobilisation of ideas, rhetoric, and violence against Muslim and Jewish minorities are comparable, especially around issues of integration (or lack thereof), of divided loyalties, and of religious traditions accused of being “incompatible” with Britain/the West/modernity. Another similarity is the paradox of power. Jews and Muslims are often spoke about as infiltrating society or controlling its politics while simultaneously accused of being “culturally backward” and degenerate.

An area of tension for some Muslims and Jews is how criticism of the state of Israel can be perceived as anti-Semitic. For many reasons, Jerusalem, the occupied territories, and the state of Israel, are a complex and emotive topic for Muslims and Jews.

The Muslim Council of Wales recognises that at times Israel is used as a “stand in” for Jews, and age-old anti-Semitic tropes are used and mobilised in criticising Israel. We recognise this is painful and dangerous. The Leader of the SNP in Westminster, Angus Robertson MP, argued that in pursuing support for “the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” some individuals start using “language and imagery” that draws “repeated accusations from the 20th and 19th centuries about Jewish ownership of the press or the financial system and so on”.

We believe it is possible to criticise Israel and fight for the rights and freedoms of Palestinian people without being anti-Semitic, and as such, will maintain a zero-tolerance policy against any anti-Semitism used when campaigning for Palestinian rights and critiquing the Israeli state.

There will, we believe, be areas in which the answers are not entirely clear, where there may be disagreement as to whether something is legitimate criticism of Israel or anti-Semitic, and as such, we wish to work with our Jewish colleagues and partners to resolve these issues as and when they arise, with a spirit of cooperation and commitment to each other’s rights, and a sacred recognition of each other’s humanity.

Prof. Sally Holland, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, and her team have developed a fantastic resource for schools entitled “Tackling Islamophobia: A Children’s Rights Resource for Secondary Schools in Wales.”

Last year, the advice charity ChildLine reported a sharp rise in calls to their hotline reporting Islamophobic bullying , with children as young as 9 years old being targeted, and some turning to self-harm as a result.

The Muslim Council of Wales were very happy to help with the development of this timely and urgently needed resource, by recruiting young people from the Cardiff Muslim community to a listening session with the Commissioner’s team last summer. We are immensely proud of the wisdom shown and insights provided by these young people into the struggles they face every day as Muslims living in Wales.  

Islamophobia is on the increase.  No child should be the target of hate for any reason, however, there are many ways that everyone, Muslim and otherwise, can work together to end these problems in our society.   

For more information, please visit the Commissioner’s website , download the resource to give to your child’s school, and share the videos below on your social media platforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MCW co-hosts international Peaceful Coexistence Conference

On December 5th 2017, the Muslim Council of Wales in partnership with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the Knowledge Exchange Program of Saudi Arabia, hosted a joint international conference on the theme of ‘Ethical Approaches to Peaceful Coexistence’. The conference was held in Cardiff City Hall and attracted over 110 speakers and delegates from around the world and across the UK. The conference aimed to look primarily at religious and interfaith perspectives on the topic to provide ways forward for peaceful coexistence in an increasingly globalised, diverse and conflicted world.

The conference was inaugurated by representatives from the three partner organisations – Prof. Medwin Hughes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), Dr Abdullah Al Lheedan, Chairman of the Knowledge Exchange Program (KEP) and Prof. Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales (MCW).

The keynote speaker was Dr Mustafa Ceric, Grand Mufti Emeritus of Bosnia who spoke on the Islamic concepts of ethics and morality as bases for peaceful coexistence. He reflected on how these ideas relate to contemporary issues such as Islamophobia and violent conflict and how there must be cooperation between Muslims and other communities to address these. He argued for an acknowledgement of issues within Muslim communities and texts as well as an acknowledgement of the moral emphasis in the message of Islam in order to move dialogue forward. The full speech can be downloaded on Dr Ceric’s organisation’s website here:

Konferencija u Kardifu o temi “Etički pristup miroljubivom suživotu”

Other speakers included Prof Gary Bunt from UWTSD who discussed online examples of conflict and coexistence, Catriona Robertson, Director of the Christian-Muslim Forum who argued for a strategic, practical approach to interfaith work, Dr Waqar Azmi from Remembering Srebrenica who reflected on lessons from the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995, Dr Yasser Babateen from KEP who explored how learning a language can be an opportunity for cultural exchange to promote coexistence, and Rabbi Monique Mayer  who gave an example of a project aimed at coexistence after the eruption of violence in Gaza in 2014.

The initiative resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the three partner organisations which took place during MCW’s annual interfaith dinner the following evening on 6th December 2017. The document was signed by Prof. Medwin Hughes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD), Dr Abdullah Al Lheedan, Chairman of the Knowledge Exchange Program (KEP) and Prof. Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales (MCW). The memorandum of understanding will allow further cooperation between the organisations to develop further initiatives and projects aiming to counteract division and conflict in society and achieve peaceful coexistence.

From left to right: Prof. Medwin Hughes (UWTSD), Dr. Abdullah Al Lheedan (KEP) and Prof. Saleem Kidwai (MCW)

For more information, use the contact details below:

Conference website: https://peacefulcoexistenceconference.wordpress.com/ or

Email: conference@muslimcouncilwales.org.uk.

Conference hashtag: #CoexistenceConf (to see social media posts from the day)

 

 

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by the leaders of three bodies to formalise our co-operation on various projects over the next five years.

The MoU was signed at the Muslim Council of Wales’ Annual Interfaith Dinner on Wednesday 6th December 2017 by the following representatives:

  • Professor Medwin Hughes, Vice Chancellor of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David
  • Dr  Abdullah Al Heedan, Chairman of the Knowledge Exchange Program
  • Professor Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales 

The MOU came after the three organisations’ first collaborative event the day before, the Ethical Approaches to Peaceful Coexistence Conference 2017, held in Cardiff’s City Hall.  In it, the three organisations to agree to work on joint projects, including the translation and publication of articles, books and research papers, academic exchange and organising shared events, over the next five years.

Representatives signing the Memorandum of Understanding

(left to right) Prof Medwin Hughes (UWTSD), Dr Dr Abdullah Al Heedan (KEP), Prof Saleem Kidwai (MCW)