London Imam and broadcaster Ajmal Masroor writes a powerful open letter to the Chief Rabbi about Jeremy Corbyn
Dear Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
My name is Ajmal Masroor. I have been an Imam for almost 30 years and I write to you today as your brother in faith and humanity.
I proudly practice Islam in our multicultural and multi-faith country, without fear or prejudice, despite the rising levels of Islamophobia. I take a keen interest in politics and believe in actively influencing change, which is why I stood for Parliament twice – once in 2010 and again in 2018.
I believe people of faith must play an active role in all aspects of our society, including politics. As such, I welcome your letter to The Times, where you urge us to vote with our conscience. Both our Jewish and Islamic traditions place conscience at the core of our Godly life on this Earth. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for reminding us of our innate, God-gifted tool: the conscience.
However, I vehemently disagree with the rest of your assertions, where you suggest that Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be our next Prime Minister. You blame Jeremy Corbyn personally for the antisemitic behaviour of Labour Party members. In my humble opinion, you have made a severe error of judgment in calling Jeremy Corbyn unfit to be our Prime Minister. Before I express why, do you believe that Boris Johnson is more fit to be our Prime Minister?
In the upcoming general election, we are limited in our choices. We know that the Liberal Democrats will never achieve enough support to win the election. We are left with a choice between the Conservative party and the Labour party. Under the Conservative party, our country has witnessed unprecedented levels of poverty, inequality, austerity, homelessness and division.
The Conservative party has sold its soul to Nigel Farage’s UKIP, and now Brexit party. The true moderate and centre ground Conservative politicians have been pushed out or side-lined by the extremists within this party. If your assertion is that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour should not be supported, are you endorsing the Conservative party, that is deeply hostile to the multicultural and multi-faith fabric of our society? Inadvertently, are you telling the Jewish community to vote for a deeply Islamophobic party? Is this your idea of voting with our conscience?
We are men of faith, and you will agree that the practise of double standards in all faiths is abhorrent. When I read about your selective outrage – calling out the Labour party for its failure to stamp out antisemitism – while turning a blind eye to the Conservative party’s Islamophobia, I felt deeply disappointed. Antisemitism is evil and we should all stand against it with all our might. Islamophobia is also evil, and we should equally stand against it. I find it deeply hypocritical when people do not observe fairness and consistency when struggling against all kinds of evil. In Judaism, as in Islam, justice and fair dealings are considered closest to Godliness. Sadly, your letter did not display justice or fairness towards Jeremy Corbyn, and instead came across as a cheap attempt at political posturing.
If I was told to choose between a lying, philandering and narcissistic clown and a truthful, principled and humble socialist, my choice would be easy. I would never entrust the future of our country to the hands of a man who is an occupational liar. I would never ask the people of our country to vote for a man who makes a mockery of clean and principled politics. The only thing Boris Johnson is interested in is himself; not our country, and certainly not community cohesion.
Jeremy Corbyn has a forty year track record of selfless service to his constituency and the absolute interest of all people in our country. He has always been a genuine friend of the minorities, disadvantaged and vulnerable. Why would you suggest that he was unfit for the Prime Minister’s office?
What is Jeremy Corbyn’s actual crime that has led you to deeming him unfit for the job? Has Jeremy Corbyn personally been accused of antisemitism? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’! He has never been accused of antisemitism.
On the other hand, Boris Johnson has made many inflammatory and deeply offensive remarks about Islam and Muslim women, including citing Islam as the reason for backwardness, violence and economic degeneration within the Muslim communities. He has also likened Muslim women, who wear face covering, to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”. In the week of his remark, anti-Muslim hate crime spiked by more than 300%. And he hasn’t stopped at the Muslim community alone. His opinion and remarks on minority communities has been abhorrent, including saying he was afraid of black men; that black people were “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and referred to gay men as “bum boys”. Is this the rhetoric you expect from the leader of our country?
I know the Labour party is accused of antisemitism, and the UK human rights commission is currently investigating it. I pray the investigation is thorough and where strands of antisemitism are identified, that they are promptly and swiftly removed and publicly admonished. But surely you would agree that the Conservative party should also be investigated for Islamophobia. Allegation alone is not enough for faith leaders like us to charge entire parties. Our claims must be substantiated, with credible evidence, and then we must wait for investigations to completed and for those findings to be made public. Both of our religious traditions have a rich, ethical parameter on how to deal with accusations, and how to challenge hatred. I am saddened to say that I believe you have violated this very principle by adding further fuel to an allegation; an act that is not only irresponsible but astoundingly dangerous in the middle of the most important election of our time.
I have always respected you as a man of faith and expected you to adhere to a higher standard of moral and ethical probity. I did not expect your high office to be compromised by spreading aspersions on Jeremy Corbyn. By doing so, you have become actively involved in what is essentially a smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn, who has never been antisemitic in his life. The plain truth is that there are numerous accounts of Jeremy Corbyn championing all forms of campaigns to eradicate hate crime from our society, including standing up for the rights of our Jewish communities in and around the UK. He has equally championed the right of the Palestinians too. He has recognised failings within the party, taken responsibility for these, offered an apology and vowed to do better. He has been honest and upright, and as a man of faith, I would expect you to follow suit.
Your statement carries with it a grave dishonesty, and I am deeply disappointed by it. In a time of political and social crisis across the world, let us adhere to honesty first and foremost. And in this very spirit, let me ask you: have you called Jeremy Corbyn antisemitic because he has been critical of the Israeli government’s policy of occupation, expansion of illegal settlements and dehumanisation of the Palestinian people? Using your pulpit to broadcast the same message as those who have weaponised antisemitism is plainly irresponsible. It beggar’s belief that you would find criticism of Israel or its political ideology of Zionism as antisemitism. No state or political ideology is beyond reproach. You falsely labelling Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite will not silence people, nor will it deter people from standing up against Israeli aggression and violence against the Palestinian people.
It pains me to know that as a man of faith first and foremost, you have been a clear supporter of the Israeli government’s aggression against the Palestinian people. In August 2014, you wrote that Israel had “understandably and justifiably defended her citizens” by taking disproportionate and indiscriminate military action in Gaza, killing innocent men, women and children. Israel continues its illegal policies of assassination, destruction of Palestinian homes, confiscation of Palestinian people’s land, occupation, collective punishment and keeps an iron fist around the Palestinian people’s right to freely move – even within their own areas. It has built the disgraceful apartheid wall and it steals water from the Palestinians and then sells it back to the Palestinians. You have remained silent about the state-sponsored injustices perpetrated by Israel, and now you are criticising Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism for championing the rights of Palestinians.
You have been a supporter of Benyamin Netanyahu, who has been convicted on many corruption charges, including fraud, breach of trust and bribery. You have no moral authority to lecture us on how Jeremy Corbyn is unfit to be the Prime Minister of our country. You have politicised your spiritual position to influence voters and I believe this is totally wrong. You are abusing your office to silence criticism of Israel, and that too is totally wrong. As a man of faith, you should know better.
If we believe that as men of faith, we should be leading our communities in the way of honesty and integrity, I would urge you to reconsider your position. Our people deserve better; we can and should be better.
Your brother in faith
Imam Ajmal Masroor
Anti-semitism, neoliberalism and austerity rejected by Jeremy Corbyn – the first Labour leader in decades to do so
British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, point out that Jeremy Corbyn is the first Labour leader in decades to promote a policy agenda that rejects neoliberalism and austerity.
They ask: “Is that (policy agenda) why mainstream media don’t want to give access to the counter-narrative?”
They were alarmed to read, yet again, a list of evidence-free accusations charging Jeremy Corbyn with antisemitism (Letters, 15 November) and wrote a letter published in the Guardian today, which continued:
We are not the least surprised that the Jewish friends of the 24 luminaries who signed are worried and frightened about this supposed antisemitism – they repeatedly read and hear unsubstantiated allegations in pages of newsprint and hours of broadcasting, while the vast amount of countervailing evidence that has been collected by highly reputable researchers, many of them Jewish, is entirely disregarded.
As British Jews, most of whom have family in Israel and lost family in the Holocaust, and all of us with plenty of experience taking on antisemites face to face across the political spectrum, we are not prepared to be used as cannon fodder in what is really a political siege of the Labour party.
We beg you, enough – and we beg the 24 protagonists and their Jewish friends – to check out the alternative voices.
- Antony Lerman,Former director, Institute for Jewish Policy Research,
- Lynne Segal, Anniversary professor, psychosocial studies, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Richard Kuper, Founder, Pluto Press,
- Jacqueline Rose, Professor of humanities, Birkbeck, University of London,
- Adam Sutcliffe Professor of European history, King’s College London,
- Miriam David Professor emerita, UCL Institute of Education,
- Dr Brian Klug Senior research fellow in philosophy, St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford,
- John S Yudkin Professor emeritus, University College London,
- Jonathan Rosenhead Emeritus professor of operational research, LSE,
- Francesca Klug Visiting professor, LSE Human Rights,
- Dr Graeme Segal Emeritus fellow, All Souls, University of Oxford,
- Mica Nava Emeritus professor of cultural studies, University of East London,
- Elizabeth Dore Professor emeritus, Latin American Studies, University of Southampton,
- Naomi Wayne Former chief enforcement officer, Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland,
- Stephen Sedley
The Guardian also has three other letters on the subject – well worth reading.
NEC’s colossal blunder: wilfully rejecting Chris Williamson, a most able, honest and talented Labour MP
Many members will find it hard to understand the NEC’s spineless decision not to endorse Chris Williamson as a Labour candidate for his Derby constituency because he had, quite correctly, commented that Labour was “too apologetic” in response to criticism of its handling of anti-semitism allegations.
Former Labour MP Chris Williamson speaks outside the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre where he lost his High Court bid to be reinstated to the Labour Party
By doing so the NEC has inadvertently given the wider world the impression that the party is still failing to take anti-semitism allegations seriously.
In his letter to Labour general secretary Jennie Formby, Mr Williamson wrote that he was “dismayed” that party officials have “executed” a “witch-hunt” against anti-zionist members, led by “those who shroud themselves in the banner of socialism”.
Lamiat Sabin reports that he has decided to resign from the Labour Party and seeks re-election in Derby North as an independent candidate in the general election next month. On Wednesday evening, he tweeted: “After almost 44 years of loyal service and commitment, it’s with a heavy heart that I’m resigning from the Labour Party.”.
Blacklisted and vilified
And the man who was nominated in July for the MP of the Year Award (annual People’s Choice Award), which recognises MPs who work closely with disadvantaged and under-represented communities – who set up Holocaust Memorial Day events in Derby and rescinded the obsolete medieval proscription barring Jews from living in Derby – has been blacklisted and vilified as having helped to make the Labour Party ‘a frightening place for Britain’s Jews’.
“As a principled socialist and prominent Corbyn supporter, Williamson was targeted by the right within the party and Labour’s enemies outside, in alliance with those who define as anti-semitism support for the Palestinians’ fight against their oppression”:
This is the verdict of many, voiced by the secretary of Jewish Voice for Labour, which deeply regrets his loss and had hoped he would stay in the party and fight for reinstatement.
Stroud News and Journal, 31 July 2019, p. 37 [also in the Glos Gazette and Glos and Wilts Standard, 1 August)
I read Royston Gay’s letter “Labour’s anti-Semitism shames us all” with the deepest dismay. As a Labour Party member of Jewish descent, I simply do not recognise the Labour Party he writes of.
The notorious Panorama programme he speaks of was a prime example of a tabloid hatchet job, which falls apart with any serious analysis. Apart from the fact it was concocted by a Murdoch acolyte, who paraded a succession of victims who nearly all belong to organisations with an axe to grind, where was the right of reply and counter-argument?
Let’s give the anti-Semitism issue a little context. Cases of anti-Semitism involving Labour Party members amount to less than .01% of the membership. While many hundreds of incidents have to be dealt with, and I hope each and every one receives the severest sanction, the number of members involved is still relatively small. Any is too many, but this needs to be been in perspective.
There is less anti-Semitism in Labour than in society in general, and certainly less anti-Semitism and other forms of racism than in the Conservative Party.
So why is it that all the media’s focus remains on the Labour Party? The elephant in the room is that anything that can be used to undermine Labour under its present leadership is regarded as fair game. Attacking Corbyn on this issue is absurd; he is a lifelong opponent of racism of all kinds.
Richard House throws down the gauntlet in a letter to the editor:
The squalid shenanigans of the Labour right over the Chris Williamson question are beneath contempt.
Good old Tosh McDonald for sticking up for him (MPs hounding Chris Williamson are ‘bullies,’ prominent trade unionist says, M Star June 29–30); and I want to respond to the call by Tosh’s for Chris’s defenders to stand up and be counted.
First, on the letters pages of this and other newspapers, I have said exactly what Chris said about anti-semitism in Labour, in the speech for which he was suspended from the party. His statements were absolutely correct and factually accurate. Chris and I both passionately believe that to the extent that there is anti-semitism in Labour, it is abhorrent and must be eradicated.
But the scale of the media coverage that the anti-semitism issue has generated is grotesquely out of proportion to the actual problem.
It has been stoked, orchestrated and weaponised in a despicable anti-Corbyn putsch attempt by the likes of Tom Watson and the Labour right.
So, I’m saying it again here, in black and white and without mealy-mouthed triangulation or equivocation, just as Chris has rightly pointed out.
So come on, rightists: suspend me from the party, too. And if you do, I look forward to seeing you in court, where, once and for all, I’ll take great pleasure in exposing your shameful shenanigans for all to see.
These people’s divisive disloyalty and misconduct are in effect making the election of a Labour government less likely, and so if anyone should be suspended from the party, it’s them, not the likes of Chris.
Dr RICHARD HOUSE
Stroud Constituency Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn – a strong believer in human rights – respects and values minority communities here, including our Jewish one. We are sure that the same applies to his leadership of the Labour Party.
We are dismayed by unbalanced media reporting ahead of the local elections of allegations of anti-Semitism against Jeremy. We believe this partly results from his legitimate criticism of Israel’s cruel and racist treatment towards its Palestinian and Bedouin populations.
This is because one definition of anti-Semitism includes criticism of the Israeli state as racist. We reject that definition. Indeed, many Israelis criticise actions of their state.
Any genuine anti-Semites and racists among the 600,000 members of the Labour Party should be challenged and, if necessary, expelled. The recommendations in the Chakrabarti Report will greatly help deal with such abuse.
We dissociate ourselves from the accusations of anti-Semitism made against Jeremy by the Board of Jewish Deputies and some Labour MPs. We confirm our confidence and support for Jeremy as MP and as a future prime minister of this country.
JENNY KASSMAN, Finsbury Park branch
JULIA BARD, St George’s branch
CLLR KAYA COMER-SCHWARTZ, Junction branch
LOUISA S KAPLIN, Junction branch
JULIAN LOUSADA, Highbury East branch
SUE LUKES, Highbury East branch
PROF MICA NAVA, St George’s branch
JENNY RICHARDSON, Tollington branch
DAVID ROSENBERG, St George’s branch
MONIKA SCHWARTZ, Junction branch
PROF LYNNE SEGAL, Highbury East branch
ANNABELLE SREBERNY, Highbury East branch
RUTH STEIGMAN, St George’s branch
ANNETTE THOMAS, St George’s branch
DR GILLIAN YUDKIN, St George’s branch
PROF JOHN S YUDKIN, St George’s branch
This is Richard House’s challenging assertion as anti-Corbyn Labour MPs deserted the party in recent days. He continues:
“It’s too easily forgotten that the deserters are the same people who never accepted Corbyn’s leadership of the party from day one, and who’ve continually done everything possible – eagerly aided by their establishment media friends – to undermine him at every turn, so making his leadership job quite impossible.
“Remember the attempted MPs’ coup led by these people in their unconstitutional attempt to get rid of Corbyn? – this was long before the Labour Party anti-Semitism hysteria had ever been heard of.
“And having failed to displace Corbyn with their spiteful coup attempt, their fall-back was to concoct a carefully choreographed plan: namely, create a hysterical (but fictional) media storm about anti-Semitism; allow it to rage for a few months; then re-kindle it (literally making it up as they went along); and finally, when the fire was raging again, use this as a baseless pretext for splitting the Labour Party so we can have another five years of heartless Tory rule. Establishment job done.
“These “courageous” people have discharged their quasi-Tory bidding very well.
“Oh, and of course it’s just a coincidence that these deserters are all virulent Remainers who’ve never accepted the democratic result of the EU referendum, and will continue to do anything possible to reverse it.”
“One thing that May and Corbyn do have in common is that at least they’re trying to stay true to the democratic result of the EU referendum.
He concludes that – rather than having to devote huge amounts of time and energy defending themselves from relentless attacks from ‘serial underminers‘ within their own party – Corbyn and his team can now spend all their time on exposing the nation’s headlong social disintegration under Tory austerity.
And above all “inspiring us with their stellar policy portfolio”.
Dr Richard House
Source: Western Daily Press, 25 February 2019, p. 16–17
Williamson is right: Labour has done more – and spent more – to address anti-Semitism than any other political party
In Sheffield last week, MP for Derby North Chris Williamson said that the Labour party, and in particular the leader, have been ‘demonised’ as racist. He continued:
“I have got to say I think our party’s response has been partly responsible for that because in my opinion… we have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic. We’ve done more to address the scourge of anti-Semitism than any political party.”
Anna Boyle has listed forty reasons who the leader and/or the party reasons illustrating the truth of his statement which may be read here.
Those who have difficulty in accessing them may ask for an attachment, using the Comments facility.
After describing actions taken before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as party leader – including his leadership of a clean-up and vigil at Finsbury Park Synagogue which had been vandalised in an anti-Semitic attack – Anna points out Jennie Formby, after her appointment as general secretary of the party last year, selected a highly-qualified in-house Counsel.
By 2018 the size of the party’s staff team handling investigations and dispute processes had almost doubled. The entire backlog of outstanding cases was cleared within 6 months of Jennie taking up her post.
MP Margaret Hodge – a leading critic – said that she had submitted a dossier of 200 examples of antisemitism. Ms Formby commented that those complaints referred to 111 reported individuals, of whom only 20 were members.
Smaller panels of 3-5 NEC members were established to enable cases to be heard more quickly and every complaint made about antisemitism was allocated an independent specialist barrister to ensure due process is followed.
Below in Broxstowe last weekend
And young supporters are also not swayed by media, career-minded ‘independents’ and deputy leader
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said:
“I’ve had a very interesting week in politics. I’m obviously very sad at some of the things that have happened and very sad at some of the things that have been said. Walking away from our movement achieves nothing. Not understanding where we have come from is a bad mistake.
“Because when people come together in a grouping, in a community like the Labour Party, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together for everybody . . .
“Labour, for me, is my life – and I’m very sad at people who have left our party. I really am. I say this to them: in June 2017, I was elected on a manifesto, Emily was elected on a manifesto, Richard was elected on a manifesto, Gloria was elected on a manifesto – it was the same manifesto . . . the Labour Party believes in equality and justice, that is what was the centre of our manifesto, and that will be at the centre of our next manifesto . . .
“When the media talk about the bravery of those who walked away, Anna Soubry voted for austerity and said it was a good thing. Almost immediately after leaving Chris Leslie tells us that we should not be ending university fees … and we should be cutting corporation tax and increasing the burden on others.
Mr Corbyn also addressed the anti-Semitism issues within the party, which MPs Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan both cited as they quit Labour this week:
“When people are racist to each other, then we oppose it in any way whatsoever. If anyone is racist towards anyone else in our party – wrong. Out of court, out of order, totally and absolutely unacceptable. Anti-Semitism is unacceptable in any form and in any way whatsoever, and anywhere in our society.”
He added: “I’m proud to lead a party that was the first ever to introduce race relations legislation and also to pass the equality act and the human rights act into the statute book.”