On CBS News with Katie Couric a few weeks ago, London correspondent Mark Phillips interviewed Asghar Bukhari, who was introduced as the leader of the “moderate Muslim” organization, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC). CBS may want to issue a retraction. For Britain’s Observer newspaper has just revealed Bukhari to be a supporter of jailed Holocaust denier David Irving.
The Observer reports that Bukhari sent a small donation to Irving and urged other Muslims to contribute to his defense fund, heading his email with a quotation attributed to John Locke: “All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to stand idle.”
In the Observer report, Bukhari likened Irving to Paul Findley, the ex-Congressman and conspiracy theorist who has blamed the end of his political career on American Jewish groups. Addressing Irving, Buhkari wrote that Findley “has suffered like you in trying to expose certain falsehoods perpetrated by the Jews.”
Asked about those statements, Bukhari said he was being smeared for his anti-Zionist views -- a claim he repeats on the MPAC’s website -- though the notion that the left-leaning Observer is a Zionist propaganda organ strains credulity.
This is not the first time that the MPAC has betrayed its hostility to Jews. In the British elections of 2005, MPAC is reported to have conducted a vigorous campaign to root out pro-Israel candidates from the Labor Party. One such candidate, Lorna Fitzsimons, lost her seat by 400 votes to the Liberal Democrats, whose MP Jenny Tonge is no friend of Israel. Another candidate, the MP Oona King, who is both black and Jewish, was targeted by a visceral campaign of vilification and lost her seat to George Galloway in London’s heavily Muslim Bethnal Green constituency.
Those looking for further evidence of the MPAC’s anti-Semitism need only consider its website where one will find Israelis and supporters of Israel denounced as “Zio-Nazis.” A blogger using the handle “Peace” recently wrote on the MPAC’s website: “May Allah bless you all in your fight against the evils of Zionism.” Of Jews, the MPAC’s blog commented this June that “Hitler got rid of them the right way.” A detailed report this September by All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism noted that the MPAC has long promulgated conspiracy theories about “a worldwide Zionist conspiracy” and has reproduced articles from neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial websites as supporting evidence. Bukhari’s revealed support for David Irving is thus entirely in keeping with the MPAC’s past record.
More recently, the MPAC has taken to attacking the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain’s Orthodox Jewish community, Sir Jonathan Sacks. In an incoherent diatribe posted on the MPAC’s website on November 4, Sacks was denounced as a heartless Zionist who supports killing “in the name of Israel.” MPAC could hardly have picked a worse exemplar of alleged Zionist extremism. One of the more reflective leaders of Britain’s Jewish community, Rabbi Sacks has never hesitated to criticize those aspects of Israeli society with which he disagrees. In 2002, he controversially said that there were certain happenings in Israel that made him “uncomfortable as a Jew.” And just one week before the MPAC's attack appeared, Rabbi Sacks, in an interview with Australia’s Jewish News, called for a public debate on Israel’s ethical standing in the world rather than blind support.
One reason for the MPAC’s ignorance about the Jewish community is its refusal to listen to dissenting voices. I once tried to communicate with MPAC to express my concern over their threatening rhetoric and to correct their misconceptions about Jews and Zionism -- only to receive an anonymous email saying that I was of “Islamophobic caliber.” Since then I have been blocked from joining the group’s discussion boards. Suppressing all criticism is certainly a curious way to promote Muslim public affairs.
In view of the toxic mix of ignorance and anti-Jewish venom that pours forth from the MPAC’s website, it does not seem unreasonable to worry whether the organization may eventually spur young Muslims to commit acts of violence. As the British journalist Melanie Phillips comments: “MPACUK has always hidden behind the British hatred of Israel, and the widespread delusion that this is separate from hatred of the Jews, to gain media acceptance of its virulent Judeophobiain a country which is largely blind to the second Jewish Holocaust that is becoming a larger threat by the day.”
In the meantime, one can only hope that the MPAC’s “moderate” credentials have been permanently tarnished and that media outlets will cease to treat it as a source of thoughtful information and discussion for and by Muslims in Great Britain.
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