28th January 2007
Mr Alan Rusbridger
119 Farringdon Road
Dear Mr Rusbridger,
Your story, 'Senior Muslims used secret meeting to urge rethink over Holocaust day snub' (The Guardian, January 27), contains a mixture of information and assumption and the result is a little out of shape. The meeting referred to was a scheduled meeting of our Central Working Committee and although open to elected members only, we had allowed in a few non-members as well. We do not hold 'secret' meetings in any case. It was a normal review meeting and like all reviews, its outcome could not be pre-determined. There was no question of rethinking a 'snub' that never was. That was far from our principled position that we took from day one.
Like all elected and democratic bodies we have a normal range of views and opinions, so it is really hurtful to see a dividing line painted between so-called 'seniors' and othersor picking on one of our national affiliates, the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB). Whoever seems to have briefed you had at least one thing right: 'the [present] policy was upheld by 23 votes to 14', but these 'ayes' and 'nays' had come from across the entire spectrum, neither mainly 'senior', nor mainly MAB.
As mentioned in our recent letter to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, the MCB has never regarded HMD as a dogmatic issue, these reservations are not about the Nazi holocaust, they are about the HMD and its political connotation. We continue to review our position and search for common ground. We also see a lessening of dogmatism in the way the general British public opinion is looking at the question.
The latest YouGov poll conducted exclusively for the Jewish Chronicle (JC, 19 January 2007) found that 31% of Britons want the Holocaust Memorial Day to be renamed to a Genocide Memorial Day. Furthermore: Among the over-50s, there was a 38% majority for Genocide Memorial Day. In the over all response, 14% felt "the whole idea of any such day is wrong".' British Muslims account for only around 2.8% of the UK population, so those who felt "the whole idea of any such day is wrong" were five-fold greater in number than the entire British Muslim population.
In any case, we all seem to be moving towards some common ground, where everyone will be able to join together and exorcise this 'genocide genie' from our international body politic.
Incidentally, the Islamic Foundation was not among the organisations that were going to be represented at the 28th January event.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari,
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 57330,
London E15 1NT