Monday, December 03, 2007

The MCB and Holocaust Memorial Day

What's strange about Inayat Bunglawala's article supporting the decision of the Muslim Council of Britain to ends its boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day is that it reads like a case for the boycott:

"I have to admit that I have never been overly convinced as to the usefulness of such memorial events. The very first HMD event in the UK in 2001 was inaugurated by the then prime minister, Tony Blair. He looked typically sombre and determined during the televised occasion. "Never again," the world had said after the Nazi holocaust. But our Tony went on just two years later to give his active support to the criminal invasion of Iraq in which the dead now number in their hundreds of thousands. Never again, eh?"

Equating the Holocaust and the War in Iraq, eh?

This is almost too absurd for words. Anyone to whom the difference between a non-genocidal war fought against a brutal dictator which goes wrong and leads to substantial civilian casualties and an attempt to exterminate a race which leads to radically more deaths (regardless of whether you buy the Lancet's estimate of deaths in Iraq) isn't immediately apparent has no moral bearings at all.

"The British Muslim community was divided right from the outset over the issue of attending HMD. Some argued that the HMD would be misused by Zionists to try and garner support for the policies of the Israeli state."

Paranoia about 'Zionists' leading you to see a conspiracy in a memorial to an unparalleled historical tragedy? That's right - you're a crackpot.

"Others said that if there was to be a memorial day then it should be a more inclusive genocide memorial day. After all, had we not recently witnessed genocide in Rwanda and also of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica?"

This is ludicrous. It's a memorial to the Holocaust. It makes no claim to represent all genocides. There are 364 other days in the year on which one could hold a Srebrenica or Rwanda memorial day. Those tragedies have nothing to do with whether the Holocaust deserves a memorial of its own.

"During the Satanic Verses affair, the UK Muslim philosopher Shabbir Akhtar had warned that the next time we saw gas chambers again in Europe, it would be European Muslims that would be inside them."

a) What does this have to do with the matter at hand?

b) During the Satanic Verses affair? When Muslims were breaking the law calling for the death of someone who did no more than write a controverial book? When they weren't even punished for that crime, let alone persecuted in any way?

"Some others said that the reasons for non-attendance would not be properly understood and that it would cause unnecessary hurt to many in the UK Jewish community."

Yeah, they might think that it is putting petty political point scoring over a dignified remembrance of the victims of genocide. Or, they might think that those reasons are just a thin veil for community leaders seeking to appeal to anti-semitism.

"The MCB, with its several hundred affiliates, reflected those divisions. The only national poll that was carried out on this issue - it was commissioned last year by the Jewish Chronicle - found that 52% of British Muslims supported the MCB's hitherto position of non-attendance."

That's what worries me. That it isn't just a nasty minority and 52 per cent of British Muslims are willing take such an ugly stance. I really hope that they can be brought to see reason.

"So, this weekend's decision to attend will certainly have its detractors among British Muslims. Vikram Dodd in today's edition of the Guardian notes that some of the MCB's affiliates may even leave over this issue. On the whole, however, I believe the MCB made the right decision and it sends a welcome and positive signal about its commitment to a shared future in a multi-faith Europe."

This is the conclusion I'd have hoped for. It seems sad, though, that the only argument supporting it is that the boycott was a PR disaster. Bunglawala hasn't repudiated any of the logic that led the MCB to its rightly discrediting position.


Gracchi said...

Great fisk!

Wolfie said...

Clearly the position of the MCB is unconscionable.

What makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable about the Holocaust Memorial day though is that it doesn't include the other [non]Jewish victims of the Nazi death camps. Communists, Catholics, Poles, Disabled and a long list of people that the Nazis deemed sub-human were murdered along with the Jewish civilians and I find their exclusion from the memorial somehow not quite as sound (from a rational POV) as it could be. Unless there is something I've misunderstood? Is there? said...

"Vikram Dodd in today's edition of the Guardian notes that some of the MCB's affiliates may even leave over this issue"

That's pretty much all you have to quote on the issue. Sums it up pretty well.

chris said...

I agree with the sentiments but just want to point out a couple of things:

"Ultimately the aim of HMD is to motivate people individually and collectively, to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation committed during the Holocaust and more recent genocides are neither forgotten nor repeated, whether in Europe or elsewhere in the world."

Holocaust memorial day is not just about the Jews killed by Nazis, including by Muslim Nazis such as the Hanjar (Saber) Division of the Waffen SS in the Balkans (as part of the multi-century blood feud in the region). It is also about everybody else killed by the Nazis, and by the subsequent genocides. If I remember right one of the recent ones took Rwanda as a prominent theme as well as the Holocaust.