LETTER: ‘The councillors and members I know are not anti-semitic’

I am deeply disturbed to read a three-page story in Peterborough Telegraph on the 29th of April, front page head lined: “A Stain on our City”. It mentioned several local councillors as well as candidates, mainly Muslim -some of whom are taking part in the current elections and some who took part in previous elections, alleging that their historical comments were anti-Semitic.

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 4:50 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 3:24 pm
Suspended Labour councillors (clockwise from top left): Angus Ellis, Ansar Ali, Aasiyah Joseph, Shabina Qayyum, Mohammed Jamil, Samantha Hemraj and Mahboob Hussain

I do not have any political linkage with any party, hence my response is a Chairman of Joint Mosques Council

No doubt those who are accused of anti-Semitism will respond to the allegation levied against them. However, I am rather surprised of why such historical allegations, some of which go back several years, have been raised by the “Jewish Leadership Council” just a few days before the local elections. Why didn’t the local Jewish community raise their concern at any time previously regarding such serious allegations and why the leadership of political parties have decided now to suspend their Councillors/candidates? What prompted them to raise it at this time?

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Abdul Choudhuri EMN-160228-123552009

I believe the public should be made aware of the answers to all these questions.

I personally know all the current and previous councillors and candidates of Muslim/Pakistani heritage and I can vouch that none of them are against Judaism or anyone who is Jewish. The fact of the matter is that all Muslims believe and respect all Prophets from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Dawud and Jesus - peace be upon them. You cannot be a Muslim unless you believe in and respect all these Prophets. To suggest that a Muslim is anti-Semitic, against Jews or Judaism is completely incorrect as it is contradiction with the Islamic faith and the essence of what a Muslim believes.

Most Muslim’s around the world and many others have very strong views regarding the Israeli government concerning the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people and despite many resolutions passed by the United Nations, Israel has not vacated the land that was occupied during the 1967 war, including Jerusalem, West Bank, Golan Heights, and other areas in the region. Rather than vacating the occupied land, successive Israeli governments built up thousand of settlements in occupied land and forced the Palestinian people to live in camps in squalid conditions for more than half century.

I have personally spoken with some of the people mentioned in the newspaper article and they have expressed the same views. “No disrespect for Jewish religion or people but no love for Israeli government”. Sadly, some of them may have mixed up their feelings about religion and politics and no doubt they should be careful before making any such comments and some have already apologised for their comments. These are the same views of many British people as well as the prominent politicians. Late Sir Gerald Kaufman who was a Jew and minister in Labour government in 1970s also shadow minister for many years. He was one of the severest critics of Israel government about Palestine issue till his death.

The situation in Kashmir which is occupied by India is same as that of Palestine, if not worse. Most Pakistanis condemn the Indian government and its prime minister Modi for the atrocities being committed in Kashmir but there is no hate of any kind for Hindu religion or Hindu people. Criticism of the Israeli government and state is not and should not be considered anti-Semitic. We should be able to criticise actions of aggression of any government against humanity. Whether it is the Israeli government’s oppression of Palestinians, which includes Muslim and Christians origin, whether it is China’s oppression of Uyghur Muslims population, or any oppression of minorities in Muslim majority countries, as Muslims we are always ready to speak up for justice against oppression, justice for humanity wherever it may be. This is one of the basic teachings of Islam.

Peterborough is a shining example for others to follow where all Faith Groups work together for the betterment of its people and not a “Stain on our city” We have a Faith group, which was set up at the beginning of Covid 19, where all the faiths, including Jews, Christians, Muslims Sikhs, Hindus, and others work together and have meetings every fortnightly to discuss issues mainly regarding Covid 19 and how to work together to reduce the effect of Covid 19. There is also an Interfaith organisation representative all faiths.

Let me conclude by saying that the teachings of Islam are not to disrespect any other religions but to stay firm in your own faith. I will not touch on the issue of Islamophobia as my letter will become too long for publication.

The Joint Mosques Council will be happy to participate in any meeting with the JLC to thrash out the issues of their concern.

PS. We are very sad about the accident which took place in Israel over religious festival killing several people and injuring many more - our sympathy is with all the bereaved families. A message was already sent to local Jewish community about this tragedy.

Abdul M. Choudhuri

Chairman, Joint Mosques Council Peterborough