UK's Muslim Council Ends Holocaust Memorial Day Boycott
- Muslim CouncilEnds Holocaust Memorial Day BoycottBy Vikram Dodd
The Guardian (UK)
December 3, 2007Britain's largest Muslim body has voted to end its boycott of Holocaust memorial day, the Guardian has learned.The Muslim Council of Britain voted this weekend to end its six-year protest, which had angered the government and Jewish groups.The decision may lead to some groups leaving the MCB, an umbrella organisation with over 500 members. Its working committee voted 18 to 8 to end the boycott, which began in 2001. Those who voted to attend said the stance had allowed the MCB to be accused of antisemitism and seeming to disrespect the suffering of Jews.Representatives of the MCB will attend the next memorial day, on January 27[, 2008], in Liverpool. The decision is an emotional one for members. Those supporting the boycott believe the memorial day is too narrowly focused on Jewish suffering and ignores recent genocides such as that in Rwanda and of Muslims in Srebrenica.Daud Abdullah, the council's deputy secretary general, voted against attending and said: "I'm against it [attending]. Nothing has changed, we saw no reason why it [the boycott] should change."The former secretary general Sir Iqbal Sacranie voted to end the protest and said: "There are voices who have been attacking us from day one and trying to misconstrue our non-participation as antisemitism."Sacranie's last years as secretary general, which ended in 2005, saw him publicly justifying the boycott despite personally opposing it. He called on groups upset by the decision to respect the democratic vote and stay within the MCB: "There will be some who will be very unhappy about it."Sources say the MCB would have ended its boycott last year, but was attacked by the then communities secretary, Ruth Kelly, over the boycott, and did not want to be seen to be caving in to government pressure.Last year the MCB's central working committee voted by 23 votes to 14 to continue the boycott. Sacranie said Kelly's intervention had backfired.In a statement the MCB assistant general secretary, Inayat Bunglawala, said: "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. We wanted to uphold the principle of the equality of all human beings."However, there was a growing recognition among our affiliates that non-attendance of HMD was inadvertently causing hurt to some in the Jewish community. The MCB has always placed a lot of emphasis on inter-faith work and building ties ... so this was becoming a problem."