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UK Jewish leaders criticise article labelling concept of Islamophobia as 'anti-Jew'

Board of Deputies of British Jews says it was a 'mistake' for Jewish Chronicle to publish article by Melanie Phillips
Muslims pray in Manchester Central Mosque in Manchester (AFP)

The Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) has waded into the controversy surrounding the publication of an article in the Jewish Chronicle by columnist Melanie Phillips which appeared to suggest that claims of Islamophobia were inherently antisemitic.

The BoD, which is the main body representing Jews in Britain, tweeted that it was an "error" for the Jewish Chronicle to publish the article, entitled "Don't fall for bogus claims of 'Islamophobia'" and said "anti-Muslim prejudice is very real" and "on the rise".

"Our community must stand as allies to all facing racism," the BoD tweeted, also praising the Jewish Chronicle's "fearless journalism".

The article said that Islamophobia as a charge had been manufactured by the Muslim Brotherhood "to mimic antisemitism" and in order to "silence" criticism of the "Islamic world".

She also accused Palestinians of promoting "Nazi-themed hatred of Jews".

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"The Palestinians constantly spew out medieval and Nazi-themed hatred of Jews, presenting them as the source of all evil in the world," she wrote.

"They claim that the Jews were behind 9/11, that they are current-day Nazis and that they control US foreign policy and the world’s finances and media."

The article was met with outrage from many, particularly over the suggestion that Islamophobia as a concept was "profoundly anti-Jew".

Miqdaad Versi, media spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said the publication of the article was "shameful" in the current climate.

"The Jewish Chronicle's editors know Muslims are fearful, as many in the Islamophobic far-right feel emboldened," he said on Twitter.

"Yet they choose now to publish this vile piece from the awful Melanie Phillips - as Islamophobia is on the rise."

The Muslim Council of Britain was contacted by MEE for further comment but they had not replied at the time of publication.

Islamophobia 'ignored'

The UK is still reeling from a general election campaign that was characterised by accusations of both Islamophobia and antisemitism against the country's two main parties.

The Conservative Party won in a landslide over the opposition Labour Party on Thursday, which has provoked concerns from Muslim organisations who claim that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not done enough to tackle Islamophobia in his party.

Last week, a group of Muslim campaigners delivered a formal request to Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), asking for an investigation into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.

Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND), an organisation that promotes Muslim involvement in politics and society, criticised the lack of action taken over anti-Muslim attitudes in the party, as a poll found that 62 percent of Conservative voters believed that Islam "threatens the British way of life".

In a letter addressed to EHRC chairman David Isaac, MEND said they had attached a report which detailed "over 120 instances of Islamophobia emanating from Conservative members of Parliament, councillors, and party candidates over the past five years".

"Over recent months, numerous organisations and individuals, including ourselves, have consistently called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. These calls have not been heeded, but rather have largely been ignored by the Conservative leadership," said the letter.