How rife is anti-Semitism among Muslims? Well if you poll the so-called “Muslim world, ” as Pew and other organizations have done, the answer is: very rife indeed. Take Pakistan for instance. In 2006 only 6% of the population had a “favorable” attitude towards Jews. In 2011 when that question was polled in Pakistan again, favorable attitudes towards Jews had gone down to just 2%.
Of course if you were to cite this figure, you would get an inevitable set of responses, such as claims that the figure was so worrying because “everyone knows” that Pakistan is a somewhat “challenging” country in that regard.
So take a nice moderate Arab country such as Jordan, for instance. After all, it has a peace treaty with Israel and everything.
Alas, the news is not much better. In 2006, just 1% of Jordanians polled had a positive attitude towards Jews. But there is some good news: when they were polled again in 2011, this number had soared to an amazing 2%. So if Pew could just hang in there for another couple of decades, Jordanian attitudes towards Jews might climb to the giddy heights of philo-Semitism enjoyed in Pakistan back in 2006.
Of course the problem of discussing this, or even mentioning it, is that even just citing the figures is likely to get you condemned for being “Islamophobic.” It is the same with everything else in the area. If you mention that a startlingly small number of people think that Arabs, as opposed to Jews, carried out the 9/11 attacks, you will be thought of as at best somebody with startlingly bad manners. Go on to extrapolate the lessons one might draw from all this and you will be treated as some knuckle-dragging racist.
So how interesting it was this past week that a prominent British Muslim writer, for perhaps the first time – certainly in his own career – attempted to tackle this subject.
The British Muslim writer, Mehdi Hasan, described anti-Semitism among his Muslim peers in Britain. I use “peers” in both senses of the word: Hasan’s piece was a candid response to the discovery, published here last week, that ex-Labour peer Lord Ahmed of Rotherham had been caught on Pakistan television blaming his imprisonment for his having, while driving and texting, run over and killed a man, on “the Jews.”
Exposed on the front-page of the London Times, Ahmed’s latest anti-Semitic slur was un-ignorable. Coming from someone who touts himself as “the first Muslim peer,” it was undoubtedly a moment of clarity for many in Britain. In perhaps his only meaningful contribution to British public life, Lord Ahmed has revealed, at long-last, the anti-Semitic Muslim elephant in the room — speaking metaphorically of course.
“There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there: mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views. It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article – if they are honest with themselves – will know instantly what I am referring to.”
Quite a statement. “Any Muslims” reading his article will know what he is talking about.
He goes on to explain what a large number of the British Muslims with whom he speaks believe: that Princess Diana was murdered because she was going to have a Muslim baby, that 9/11 was not perpetrated by Muslims, and that the Holocaust of European Jews never happened.
This is a very striking confession. Hasan goes on to say that as he was growing up, he had always assumed that the “Jewish obsession” among British Muslims was a first-generation immigrant problem that would die out. But as he rightly points out, it has not died out. If anything, it has grown. As he says, “In recent years, I’ve been depressed to discover that there are plenty of ‘second-generation’ Muslim youths, born and bred in multiracial Britain, who have drunk the anti-Semitic Kool-Aid. I’m often attacked by them for working in the ‘Jewish owned media.’”
Hasan adds that he long tried to resist writing a column about all this because he knows that, among other things, he will be accused by his peers of having become a “sell-out.” He says that he feels as if all this is “dobbing-in” [telling on] the British Muslim community from which he comes. And he knows that his column “will also be held up by some of my fellow Muslims as ‘proof’ that ‘Mehdi Hasan has sold out to the Jews.’” This response certainly came abundantly from other British Muslims online once his article was published: the publication proved its own point swiftly indeed.
But “The truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old,” he says. “We’re not all anti-Semites,” he adds. “But, as a community, we do have a ‘Jewish problem’. There is no point pretending otherwise.”
I should stress, incidentally, that the author of the important piece, Mehdi Hasan, is not a friend of mine. We have opposed one another over the years on multiple platforms. Several years ago I wrote about him here, in particular about a notorious video which came out showing him giving a sermon in a British mosque in which he referred to non-Muslims,as “cattle,” among other endearments. I do not believe him to be a “moderate” or anything like an ally, but this is what makes his whistle-blowing piece even more striking: he should be congratulated for it.
Mehdi Hasan has blown the whistle on a “dirty little secret.” It is high time that people from the community about which he writes wake up to what he has said and not try to deflect attention from it or aim it elsewhere.
It is also high time that non-Muslims realize that this view is not a bluff or any kind of exaggeration. What he has described is a problem. The polls and figures have long shown it. Now somebody from inside the community has blown the whistle. If this problem is not addressed, and if the attempt to tackle it from any and all directions continues to be silenced – by calls of being either “racist” or a “sell-out” — then it is a problem that in the years ahead will only continue to grow.