Forgetting to remember
With its decision to attend Holocaust memorial day, the Muslim Council of Britain seems to have failed to consider the plight of the Palestinians
Anas Altikriti [pictured]
December 4, 2007
When the MCB leadership emerged from their meeting on Saturday with the news
that they had decided to end their boycott of the Holocaust memorial day, I
expected to hear that something significant had occurred that led to this shift
in position. The decision not to accept the invitation of the organising
committee over recent years has led to immense pressure and often censure from
a variety of sources, including the government, as well as a barrage of attacks
from the media brigade, along with the much-used accusations of antisemitism
In essence the price paid by the MCB and its affiliates for its previous
principled stand was dear on all fronts, although it gained much unnoticed and
unreported praise from an array of sectors. Added to this, a recent internal
survey of its affiliates showed an overwhelming majority support for the MCB's
decision not to attend in previous years.
However, if you were expecting something seismic to have occurred in order to
reverse the decision, you were to be bitterly disappointed. Nothing whatsoever
had changed. Many members claim they were not informed that the discussion was
to be followed by a vote and so did not attend. All this raises some serious
questions as to how this process was conducted.
Even more confusing is the statement given by the assistant general secretary
of the MCB, Inayat Bunglawala, to the Guardian:
"We have always sought a more inclusive title such as genocide memorial day so
that it would also give recognition to more recent massacres such as in Rwanda
and that of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica".
Well, the event is still called the Holocaust memorial day, despite proposals
that the title should be more inclusive, and moreover, the Holocaust
Educational Trust addressed Bunglalwala's concern that Rwanda and Srebrenica
had actually been commemorated in past HMD events. So once again ... what's
new? Why did the MCB apparently give in to the pressure and vilification of the
pro-Zionist lobby and those who could not bring themselves to listen to the
argument proposed by the MCB and other organisations if nothing had changed?
While many will pose resolutions to that particular question, it is striking
that Bunglawala and all those who have spoken for the change in policy have
failed to give even a passing mention of the party whose suffering is paramount
in this whole scenario, namely the Palestinians. The whole issue with the HMD
event is that rather than a mere remembrance of victims of one of the most
heinous crimes in history, it has become a political event. It glorifies the
state of Israel, turning a collective blind eye to the immeasurable suffering
of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis every single day.
Rather than remembering the dead and vowing never to allow similar crimes to
occur ever again the event, led by the Israeli ambassador in London, keeps
similar crimes hidden, lest the memories of those who died in Nazi camps be
disturbed. Even prominent Jewish intellectuals and politicians, themselves
children of victims, spoke of what they coined the "Holocaust industry"
announcing their refusal to participate in the farce it has become.
One argument of those who refused to attend the HMD event was that the victims
of Israeli crimes must also be remembered and, unless that wrong is corrected,
this event can only be seen as a desecration of the memories of those who have
died under tyranny, injustice and oppression - regardless of their religion,
ideology or race.
The sad thing about this saga is that having held firm for many years and
gained the backing of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the MCB now seems to have
made its decision as a result of pressure from the government and certain
sectors of the media. It betrays a position of weakness, suggesting that we
will relent and change our ways as long as you keep up the pressure.
Despite this sorry episode, Muslims and non-Muslims around the world will never
forget Palestine. Only time will tell what impact this will have on the MCB,
internally and otherwise, particularly considering its umbrella organisation
status. In the meantime, there can be little doubt, even in the minds of those
leading the MCB, that the people are not behind them on this matter. When it
comes to Palestine and the crimes being perpetrated against its civilians over
the past 60 years, there can be little room for politicking or vying for
long-lost and much-coveted places on the table of conformity.