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Walk-outs over ‘Islamophobia’ at antisemitism symposium

By Nick Lowles
December 10 2012




The Jewish Chronicle this week reported that “a seminar meant to highlight problems in dealing with antisemitism ran into trouble when audience members walked out — alleging Islamophobia on the part of some speakers.”

The walk-out was led by David Hirsh, of Engage, who objected to speeches by Bat Ye’or and Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld at a conference on antisemitism sponsored by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism.

Bat Ye’or told the audience: “The source of antisemitism is the organisation of the Islamic corporation”, while Gerstenfield described Muslim culture as inferior.

Leading the walkout, Hirsh said: “I was appalled by Gerstenfeld’s characterisation of Muslim culture as inferior. Nearly all the speakers on the day, including me, stressed that antisemitism must be understood and opposed within an anti-racist framework.

“I am as appalled by the Islamophobia which creeps into some opposition to antisemitism as I am by the way antisemitism also creeps into ostensibly anti-racist spaces.”

His objections to their comments were backed by by the Community Security Trust (CST).

Mark Gardner, director of communications for CST, said after the seminar: “A minority of speakers said things about Britain, Europe and Muslims that we found to be incorrect, unacceptable and self-defeating. We made our concerns clear with a number of interventions and were correct to do so.”

David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute, and Philip Spencer, director of research in politics at Kingston University, also walked out in protest.

Mr Feldman said: “Unfortunately, the unfounded arguments of some speakers and expressions of religious prejudice from others did a disservice to Jews and others seeking to combat antisemitism.”

Now, I think given the well-known views of both Bat Ye’or and Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld it is a surprise that they were allowed to speak at such a high profile event. Bat Ye’or, in particular, has been credited with developing the ‘Eurabia’ conspiracy theory and plays a central role in the international anti-Muslim network – which we have defined as the ‘counter-Jihad’ movement.

That said, the people who walked out and objected to their views should be applauded. Intolerant and unacceptable views were voiced and people objected. This is both good and should be encouraged across all communities and faiths.

Groups like HOPE not hate can speak out and campaign against extremism but the most effective messengers are those within community and faith organisations. They come from a position of trust and respect and their denunciation of extremists within their own community carries far more weight. This is as true as it is for the Muslim and Christian communities as it is for the Jewish community.

Let’s hope that this action is replicated by others everywhere.


Originally published by Hope not Hate

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