British Muslim-Jewish Relations
To The Editor
Having read your huge focus on British Muslim-Jewish relations under the telling title, 'British Muslims - Faith and Rage', (Jewish Chronicle, May 9 2003) and its follow up in the 16th May issue, let me say that we do not at all take a dim view of our relations here in our own country.
This view is actually confirmed by your own reporter Jenni Frazer. She went on a walk 'in two bustling areas in the UK (Ilford and Leicester) where Jews and Muslims mix to see how far the politics of the Middle East affects relationships between the two communities'. What she wrote was totally different from most of the opinion pieces you publish.
Here was a Jewish reporter of a Jewish weekly walking over grounds supposed to be ticking with the not so hidden 'time bomb' of 'radical Islam' and she comes out whole and sound to tell us that no matter the situation in the Middle East and the 'extremists', Jews and Muslims meet and live together 'at grassroots level' on 'a human-to-human basis.' If there were elements or two to the contrary, they are certainly not the norm, with either community.
Had your columnists, especially Melanie Phillips, who enjoys a special regard in the Muslim community for her pro-family writings, had the benefit of reading Jenni Frazer's report from the grassroots and Fuad Nahdi's eloquent plea to 'Revive spiritual cousinhood,' before they wrote their pieces, I am sure, their approach to the subject of Jewish-Muslim relations would have been very different.
There is no gainsaying the fact that bonded by their common loyalty to the monotheistic and iconoclastic message of Abraham (peace be upon him), Jews and Muslims have an obligation to a civilised and peaceful co-existence. This is notwithstanding some well known differences over political issues, especially the occupation of the Holy Land. Notwithstanding also the 'extremists', whom the Redbridge Muslim activist, Muhammad Azam, rightly dismisses as 'fruitcakes.'
The so-called 'extremists' have little effect in shaping our community's mind. They are treated with contempt by the mainstream UK Muslim population - as your reporter discovered. But, I am afraid, an incredibly extravagant and relentless projection of their antics may well be having a negative effect on the thinking of the Jewish community and the wider non-Muslim public. British Muslims are being subjected to a steady stream of hateful comments by newspaper columnists and we are witnessing regular attacks on our places of worship and cemeteries. The media in general and the JC in particular could be more helpful in this regard.
Although one could fault your treatment of the subject, you have at least helped sensitise us about the possible negatives in Jewish-Muslim relations in the UK. That's one benefit and we should try to accentuate the many positives in our community relations. One may continue to argue but there is no need to squabble.
Our glass is more than half full. Let us together try to keep filling and not emptying it.
Iqbal AKM Sacranie OBE
The Muslim Council of Britain