TORONTO — “The only way to kill an idea is to expose it,” Raheel Raza, Muslim Canadian journalist, media consultant, anti-racism activist and author of Their Jihad… Not my Jihad! declared starkly to an audience of about 120 at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies’ (FSWC) inaugural Leadership Policy Conference on Anti-Semitism.
Held on Sunday, June 8, at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, the conference featured five panel discussions, each examining a different element of contemporary anti-Semitism.
Raheel spoke on the third panel, “Muslims against Anti-Semitism,” alongside Tahir Gora, Pakistani writer, activist and founder of Canadian Thinkers’ Forum, a think-tank specializing in Islamic radicalization and anti-Semitic incidents in the Muslim diaspora, and Tarek Fatah, author of The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths of Muslim Anti-Semitism, Toronto Sun columnist and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a think-tank that gives a voice to Muslims not affiliated with existing organizations.
The panel was moderated by Evan Green, incoming chair of the Lawyers 4Wiesenthal, a group of attorneys dedicated to promoting the FSWC’s agenda.
The three Muslim panelists spoke out vehemently against what they characterized as a pervasive anti-Semitism found in Canada and across the Muslim world and which, stoked by Islamic extremism, often forms the underpinning of anti-Israel rhetoric, Israeli Apartheid Week and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Raza, who is also president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, a group working to “reclaim Islam” and oppose extremism and violence in the name of religion, said it’s important for the Jewish community to ask itself, “Who are our real friends?”
She warned against “seemingly innocuous” displays of anti-Semitism, such as those that she said sometimes emerge under the pretext of interfaith dialogue.
“Some aspects of anti-Semitism you see flat out, like Israeli Apartheid Week. But then there are those subtle forms that come under the umbrella of interfaith dialogue – the whole term interfaith dialogue has been hijacked by [extremist] Islamists.”
She said hatred of Jews is often embedded in early Islamic education, and that Jews cannot afford to “stand by silently anymore” regarding things like anti-Israel activities on university campuses.
“If anti-Jewish sentiment is taught early in mosques, then is there any wonder you have Israeli Apartheid Week and BDS campaigns in places of education?”
Jewish university students should be provided with tools to push back against these campaigns, she said.
Gora spoke about the challenge that progressive, anti-extremist Muslims such as he and his fellow panelists face in fighting anti-Semitism and how it’s important to come back with “actions and solutions, not just words.”
He said the majority of Muslims fall into “grey zones” regarding their opinions about Jews and Israel, and that, in the absence of progressive Islamist centres in the Toronto area, “they tend to only hear the Islamist organizations in Toronto, which are against Jews and the state of Israel.”
He added: “We must reach out to these Muslims regarding the legitimacy of the Israeli state and the image of the Jewish community… to create awareness, seminars and good literature.”
An audience member asked the speakers whether anti-Semitism is not only fostered by state-sponsored Islamofascism, but ingrained in the Islamic religion.
Gora said religious scripture must, in some cases, be separated from real life, while Raza, who describes herself as an observant Muslim, said passages in the Qur’an condoning actions now considered violations of human rights should be abandoned.
“Other religions have left some parts of scripture behind, and I believe that we must leave some parts of Qur’an scripture behind, such as the parts calling for armed Jihad or hatred of Jews.”
She said she sees no conflict between her faith and her support for Israel.
“My understanding of my faith is very Jewish-friendly. When I read the Qur’an, I understand that Israel was the land for the Jewish People.”
Fatah spoke about the need for honesty among Muslims, “especially among those who call themselves moderate.”
He stressed that Israeli Apartheid Week and the BDS movement are necessarily anti-Semitic.
“What else is it? There’s no BDS against Saudi Arabia. I’ve never heard of anyone having a BDS movement against China manufacturing goods out of slave camps… If you can’t boycott Saudi Arabia, you can’t boycott Israel.”
Fatah also asserted that without a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel’s and the Jewish Diaspora’s problems won’t cease.
“Palestine has to be a state and Israel has to get out of the West Bank… there is no choice. And this is the Israeli consensus. It’s only in North America where Jewish organizations question the two-state solution… A lot of time in the Jewish Diaspora is being wasted on unnecessary arguments that have no outcomes.”