THE BLOG

Jews and Muslims of Britain Unite!

12/11/2014 17:47 GMT | Updated 12/01/2015 10:59 GMT

In a globalised world, the events that took place this summer, have been and will continue to be of consequence for every person, no matter of what background, no matter where they are in the world. That said, for the Jewish and Muslim communities in the UK, what has taken place in Gaza, Iraq and Syria and Europe is of the greatest importance.

Once again both communities feel under siege, under attack. For Muslims in this country, the past decade has seen the suffocating rise of Islamaphobia. According to the May 2014 PEW poll, one in four British people hold negative views against Muslims, in Spain, Italy and Greece, this has risen to over half the population. For many people, in a time when institutional structures seem outdated, a place of worship is the last upholder of community. This is especially true for recent and second wave immigrants for whom religion connects them to their past and allows them to assimilate into a new community.

Jewish people more than any other ought to be able to empathize with the position that British Muslim's find themselves today. The history of Jews in Europe is one of similar persecution. However, the persecution of Jews is not a piece of history but a resurrecting curse that is once again emerging across Europe. The attempted firebombing of Paris' Synagogues attracted the greatest media attention this summer, however anti-Semitism is rising in the UK also. The first half of the year witnessed a 36% rise in anti-Semitic attacks, more than 130 British reported suffering anti-Semitic attacks in July alone.

Across Europe, Islamaphobia and anti-Semitic attitudes are on the rise. Such prejudices have allowed far-right groups such as Jobbik to gain 20% of votes in Hungary and the Swiss People's Party gaining over 26% of the poll. The rise of the far right extends across the whole of Europe. It is true that the British public has long been unwilling to support such trends. However, power in Britain, normally the bedrock of parliamentary stability, is fracturing and moving towards an unknown future. Something that has not gone unnoticed by all minority groups in this country.

Adding to the confusion and suspicion is that sections of both Jewish and Muslim communities are involved in the denigration of the other. Over the last few years we've seen ultra-Zionist Jews team up with Islamaphobic groups such as the EDL and the Front National. On the other side an undercurrent of anti-Semitism is noticeable and on rare occasions heard loudly from European Muslims. Both communities are afraid of the rising hatred and to some extent see each other as part of that rising persecution. The two communities' newspapers 'The Jewish Chronicle' and 'The Muslim News' spend most their articles reporting attacks on the communities, relaying negative myths of the other and emphasising differences rather than similarities.

Frankly, British Muslims and Jews need to disown and reject these backwards and harmful attitudes, if not for the sake of the other then for their own sake.

It is now that these two communities must understand how interdependent they are. When one community is attacked, the other is next in line. The hatred of Muslims in Europe is the same hatred that Jews have experienced for the last few centuries. When Jews perpetrate islamaphobic actions, they are creating an atmosphere in which anti-Semitism thrives and vice versa. The last Pew statistics show direct correlations between rising Islamaphobia and rising Anti-Semitism. When Islamaphobia permeates a community so too does anti-Semitism. As Nasar Meer tells us 'the expression of anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish attitudes emerges not separately but instead as a conjoined activity'. In Paris this summer, the anti-Semitic events further divided the two communities and through these cracks, the far right emerges.

In the UK both Jews and Muslims are facing the same problems as minority communities living a diaspora existence. The discrimination that Muslims suffer today sounds enormously familiar to any Jewish person. The frustration that young British Jews feel when they are constantly asked to justify or denounce Israeli attacks is the same frustration that young British Muslims feel when they are asked to justify or denounce every suicide bomb. The fear and anger that young British Muslims felt when they saw mosques attacked after Lee Rigby's murder is the same fear and anger that young British Jews felt when they saw synagogues attacked in Paris and Belfast after Pro-Palestinian marches. It is time for British Muslims to defend the synagogue and for British Jews to defend the Mosque or else face a decade of uncertain living.

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