Douglas Murray’s blog post in the Spectator caught my eye yesterday, in which he points out a must-read article in the HuffingtonPost by Mehdi Hasan. No, really:
Hasan felt compelled for some reason to speak out against Lord Ahmed’s rant about how a Jewish conspiracy caused his conviction for killing someone while driving and texting at the same time.
To claim that your jail sentence for dangerous driving is the result of a Jewish plot is bigoted and stupid. The peer has since been suspended from the Labour Party and forced to stand down as a trustee of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation. I’m not sure how many “Jewish friends” he has left – if, that is, he had any to begin with.
Full disclosure: I know Lord Ahmed and have defended him in the past. In 2007, he flew out to Sudan to help free the schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons from the clutches of the odious Islamist regime in Khartoum. In 2009, an Appeal Court judge noted how the peer had “risked his life trying to flag down other vehicles to stop them colliding with… his car”. He is not a latter-day Goebbels. But herein lies the problem. There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there: mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views.
The truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old. No, the on-going Israel-Palestine conflict hasn’t helped matters. But this goes beyond the Middle East. How else to explain why British Pakistanis are so often the most ardent advocates of anti-Semitic conspiracies, even though there are so few Jews living in Pakistan?
The fact that a visceral hatred of Jews and conspiracy-mongering is rife within the Mohammedan communities around the world is old news to people here, and surely it’s not a stunning revelation to Hasan, either. The real question is, what will the BBC do about this?
To be honest, I’ve always been reluctant to write a column such as this. To accuse my fellow Muslims of being soft on the scourge of anti-Semitism isn’t easy; I feel as if I am ‘dobbing in’ the community, telling tales to the non-Muslim teacher. Nor do I particularly want to assist the English Defence League in its relentless campaign to demonise all Muslims, everywhere, as extremists and bigots.
We aren’t. And we’re not all anti-Semites. But, as a community, we do have a ‘Jewish problem’. There is no point pretending otherwise.
So it’s not news to Hasan after all. He’s been aware of it for a very long time. How about the BBC? We all remember how they leapt to support Baroness Warsi when she lamented that Islamophobia had “passed the dinner table test” in Britain. They made sure to do a Have Your Say on it. The World Service audience got their own Have Your Say, asking who was responsible for Islamophobia. I don’t need to reel out a laundry list of all the news reports, radio shows, and drama programming the BBC has produced in the last few years trying to encourage people to accept Islam, and even welcome it. More recently, in keeping with the BBC’s remit to foster social cohesion, they promoted the national “Wear a Hijab Day”, to encourage girls of all races and religions to spend the day embracing this aspect of Mohammedan culture, to learn how “the other” lives and so bring communities closer together. Some of us joked at the time that we wouldn’t be holding our breath for the BBC to do a “Wear a Yarmulke” day. But now it seems like this would be the perfect opportunity for them to use the special, unique powers and influence of the BBC to take a stand against the anti-Jewish sentiment that has equally passed the dinner table test in Britain. And it’s not just at the dinner parties Mehdi Hasan goes to, either.
Hasan seems to be aware that the Palestinian situation is not necessarily the sole reason for the hatred of Jews amongst his co-religionists. He may not know just how far back it goes (before the creation of Israel, in fact), and one has to equally wonder if anyone at the BBC shares his awareness. Only time will tell. I don’t think Hasan’s purpose here is to delve into the history of anti-Semitism in the Muslim World or anything like that, so there’s no problem with him not going into it. However, the BBC does do history and background, when it suits them, so there’s no excuse for them not to get into it in detail.
If the BBC doesn’t respond to this with even a fraction of the energy with which they’ve attacked the problem of Islamophobia, it will be a clear failure of their Charter-bound duty. Whether or not it’s evidence of a similar epidemic of anti-Jewish sentiment at the BBC remains to be seen.