Wasiq Wasiq, an Advisor to Muslims Against Anti-Semitism (MAAS)
No one should be shocked by what transpired over the weekend in the Texan city of Colleyville. British Muslim Malik Faisal Akram held hostage four innocent Jews demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui—the cause célèbre Pakistani women imprisoned in the US on terrorism charges. This was a well-coordinated plan but one which would never have been successful. Akram was shot dead at the scene and the hostages were rescued unharmed.
There is simply no likelihood that Akram would have triumphed and Siddiqui would have been released. It is therefore reasonable to believe that his main intention was to harm Jews. Either that, or he was sold a lie that such a plan would have been fruitful. I believe it is both. But harming Jews, whether that is through taking them hostage, physical acts of violence, or propagating conspiracies about them, appears to be commonplace in Muslim communities.
In 2020, when Covid-19 was ravaging the globe, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Health Ministry department decided to put on a competition dubbed “We Defeat Coronavirus”. It was an opportunity for entrants to showcase their artwork with messaging to lift the public’s spirits against this deadly disease. However, some of the entrants took this as an opportunity to take pot shots against Israel and Jews. That these antisemitic entries remained in the competition, without challenge, appear to demonstrate how deeply ingrained antisemitism is even at the highest levels of an Islamically-inspired government.
Antisemitism in the Middle East goes a lot further than just the odd artistic entries. It is embedded so much in society that is seems to be a normal part of everyday life. For example, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) carried out a poll in 2014 which found in the region of one billion people holding antisemitic views. The poll tracked attitudes from 102 countries and the findings are stark.
Based on the countries polled, 35 per cent had never heard of the Holocaust and 41 per cent believed Jews were more loyal to Israel than their own country. Possibly the most troubling statistic found was that 74 percent of people in the Middle East held antisemitic attitudes. This was the highest regional percentage in the world, with Eastern Europe achieving less than half of that at just 34 per cent.
One possible explanation for these attitudes is the lack of engagement between faith communities. Of the 26 per cent of people polled in the ADL survey, 70 per cent had never actually met a Jew. This is further reinforced by research conducted by the Henry Jackson Society which found British Muslims, who are more socially integrated in their friendship groups, have a more favorable view of Jews and the state of Israel. Breaking down barriers so there are more opportunities for Jews and Muslims to build bonds of friendship together may offer some hope in limiting the amount of antisemitism Jews face.
Did Malik Faisal Akram ever engage socially with Jews? We will not know until a full investigation has been conducted and the true facts are revealed. But what we do know is that Islamists will have no issue being antisemitic.
During the months of May and June 2021, Israel and Palestine once again found themselves in violent conflict. This seemingly intractable situation tends to find itself reverberating in Britain. The Community Security Trust (CST) documented this by showing how British Islamist organizations were using protests during this conflict as a vehicle for antisemitism. For example, the report found how influential Islamist YouTuber Mohammed Hijab remarked: “We don’t care about death, we love death”, which is evocative of the jihadist slogan, “We love death more than you love life”. The report also documents further instances of antisemitism, not just in the Britain, but around the world.
There is a problem of antisemitic extremism in the Muslim community. To deny such a fact is to bury your head in the sand hoping either it doesn’t exist or that you don’t have to deal with it. It seems clear that the longer this goes on, the more likely these antisemitic extremists will feel emboldened and garner influence through violence and hate. The Home Secretary Priti Patel has an opportunity to take this head on—but that can only happen with the support of the diverse Muslim community in Britain.
The efforts to prevent violent antisemitic extremism should be a joint one, not just something left to the government and law enforcement. It is now time for the Muslim community to face up to this reality and take charge.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.