The Claim of the rise of antisemitism in the UK: Stirring one community against another
Ahmad Abu Hayyan
Sunday 18th January 2015 was an astonishing day of contradiction and hypocrisy, the British Home Secretary speaking at a service in London to remember those killed in the terror attacks in France this month the UK must redouble its efforts to “wipe out anti-Semitism”.
Mrs May said “I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom would say they were fearful of remaining here in the United Kingdom.”
On the other side of the Atlantic on the same day, David Cameron spoke to the Face the Nation programme on the American TV channel CBS. Mr Cameron was asked how to “find the right balance” after the Pope defended freedom of expression but said there were limits to freedom of speech.
The pontiff had said religions should be treated with respect, so that people’s faiths were not insulted or ridiculed.
Mr Cameron replied: “I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offence about someone’s religion.
These responses highlight starkly that when it comes to freedom of speech and expression, there are glaring contradictions. Either you can cause offence to a religious group or you cannot. There cannot be balance, as the very nature of freedom is to express your thoughts and prejudices (even if it causes offence or not). In the whole debate there is no actual view which presents the stance of what is actually meant by freedoms and the way they are expressed.
However it is the usage of the Jewish community and the rise of anti semitism which has now been used as an extra tool to bat over the heads of the Muslim community. It is suggested in a lethal cocktail of direct and indirect language, that it is the Muslim community that has also fuelled an anti Semitic rise in the UK.
Britain’s track record of protecting the Jewish community
Before the Muslim community is placed in the equation of anti semitism, it would be useful to scan England’s historical, systematic and structured discrimination against the Jewish community. Antisemitism has been present in Britain for almost a thousand years. In the twelfth century, Catholic medieval Britain was a persecutory society, particularly when it came to Jews. It pioneered the blood libel and the church was a leader in instituting cruel legislation and conduct toward Jews.
Prof. Robert Wistrich the Neuberger Chair for Modern European and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has analysed the British approach to Jews:
“In the Middle Ages, England pioneered the blood libel. The Norwich case in 1144 marked the first time Jews were accused of using the blood of Christian children for their Passover matzot. In the twelfth century, medieval Britain was a persecutory Catholic society, particularly when it came to Jews. In this environment the English church was a leader in instituting cruel legislation and discriminatory conduct toward Jews, unparalleled in the rest of Europe”
In Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, a Jew is the archetype of the villain. In the modern twentieth-century authors have presented their characters in a antisemitic way. Among them were Edwardian writers like John Galsworthy, H. G. Wells, and Nobel Prize winner T. S. Eliot. There were few authors devoid of any antisemitism.
Other snapshots of British history highlight British anti semitism
In 1218, in what became the precursor of anti-Jewish laws all over the world, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, made Jews wear a badge – an oblong white patch of two finger-lengths by four – to identify them. Barons, to whom Jews lent money, encouraged the mob responses to such claims, in which Jewish homes were ransacked and records of their debts were destroyed.
At the end of the 12th century, as part of an epidemic of religious fervour during preparations for Richard the Lionheart’s Third Crusade against the Saracens, massacres of Jews were staged at Stamford fair, in Bury St Edmunds and, most notoriously, in York. In 1190 the city’s Jews were given refuge in Clifford’s Tower at York Castle only to be besieged by a mob demanding they convert to Christianity. Most of those inside committed suicide; those who surrendered were slaughtered. By 1290, Edward I – who had found an alternative source of finance in the Italian merchants known as the “pope’s usurers” – banished the Jews from England.
For more than 300 years no Jew, officially, existed in Britain it was not until Charles I was beheaded that the Jews felt safe to return. Then, in 1656 a Dutch Jew named Menasseh ben Israel, petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow his people to return.
As a reward, what was known as “The Jew Bill” was introduced in 1753 to allow them to be naturalised as British citizens. It was passed by the House of Lords, though it fell in the Commons with the Tories making great outcry against this “abandonment of Christianity”.
Many prominent Jews – like the Disraelis – allowed their children to grow up as Christians.
By 1874, Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister. He had been baptised a Christian but was open about his Judaic inheritance, once needling a Commons opponent with the jibe that “when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon”.
Indeed anti-semitism has been more common among the British upper, rather than the lower, classes – a phenomenon which Ashley Perry puts down to aristocratic resentment.
“The British consider themselves the height of civilization, the founder of democracy and the force that brought culture to much of the world,” he says. But the Jews remind them that “there is one people that has lived with the British for many years which reminds them that their ‘civilisation’ is relatively new”
The British have a long history of anti semitism and have never eradicated in its society. The irony is that in a climate of Anti Islamic sentiments, the British government uses the Jewish community and it’s damning historical failure to attack Islam and promote insults towards Islam and it’s Messenger (saw).
It was not the Islamic authority but the US State Department in 1877 who assessed the treatment of Jews in the Ottoman Khilafah. Their findings were that Jews were very well treated and not persecuted are described in the news article below published on Wednesday 23rd August 1877 by the New York Times.
“The United States Minister says that justice to the Turk compels him to admit that the Israelites have been better treated by the Ottomans than by many of the Western powers and that the impression prevails that they are better treated in the Empire than the Christians.”
It was recorded that there were 500,000 in the Ottoman Khilafah at that time. This is not an image of an anti semitic society rather a rich society where people of different faiths co existed in harmony and peace.
It was only the Islamic ruling which provided and will provide when it is established an unfettered security for the life, blood, religion, honour and property of the people of other faiths. The Khilafah is not a theocratic state for the Muslims only. Rather it is a state for all peoples and non-Muslims are treated equally as citizens of the state. They cannot be coerced to change their religion, no discriminatory policies against them can be adopted by the state nor can any type of harm be allowed to come to them.
The Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم said,
«أَلا مَنْ قَتَلَ نَفْسًا مُعَاهِدًا لَهُ ذِمَّةُ اللَّهِ وَذِمَّةُ رَسُولِهِ فَقَدْ أَخْفَرَ بِذِمَّةِ اللَّهِ، فَلا يُرَحْ رَائِحَةَ الْجَنَّةِ، وَإِنَّ رِيحَهَا لَيُوجَدُ مِنْ مَسِيرَةِ سَبْعِينَ خَرِيفًا»
“Whosoever persecuted a dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen), usurped his right or took work from him beyond his capacity or took something from him with evil intentions, I shall be a complainant against him on the Day of Judgement.”
Unlike modern day Britain where Muslim and Jews are treated poorly by the rise of far right movements and racist sentiments. It is not the Muslim community that has contributed to the rise of anti semitism but the governments failure to provide an harmonious society where people can live side by side in peace and security.
In regards to the Muslim community this discrimination is further driven by draconian anti terror polices which stifle intellectual and political debate and place every man, woman and child in relative fear of their future in this country and in Europe. A place where on one hand the faith of people can be insulted and live in fear, and on the other it is said that protection will be provided from bigots.
This is a contradiction on an epic scale