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May 30, 2013 12:09 pm

Muslims Combating Anti-Semitism

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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Hafeez Kasim. Photo: : Anav Silverman, Tazpit News Agency.

A small, but increasingly vocal number of Muslims are rejecting radical hate speech and combating anti-Semitism in the Muslim world. In the recent Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism held this week in Jerusalem, Palestinian Media Watch director, Itamar Marcus and Dr. Boaz Ganor organized a panel discussion with Muslim activists actively rejecting hate rhetoric.

Two of the panel speakers included Kasim Hafeez, a British Muslim who runs The Israel Campaign and Rev. Majed El Shafie, a human rights advocate originally from Egypt. Ahmad Mansour, a Palestinian living in Berlin, who is a policy adviser for the European Foundation for Democracy, was also scheduled to speak but was unable to attend.

“When people say that anti-Semitism exists in the Muslim world because of Israel, that is simply an excuse,” says Kasim Hafeez, born in Britain to a Pakistani Muslim family.

“People here [in Israel] get Islamic anti-Semitism. In Europe, we deny it,” Hafeez expounded.

“As a university student, I would attend radical anti-Israel rallies in Trafalgar Square. Here I am standing in London in the middle of a European capital – chanting ‘death to Israel’ and nothing was ever done.”

He compares those rallies with the Ku Klux Klan. “An Al-Quds Day rally in London is equivalent to a KKK rally in the US,” he stressed.

Hafeez told Tazpit News Agency that he began to change his thinking when he read A Case for Israel, by Alan Dershowitz.

Hafeez explains that he read the book in order to learn how to further deconstruct Zionist propaganda. “But I began to see that I could no longer support my convictions because I had no answers to the arguments that were made for Israel,” he explains.

Rev. Majed El Shafie. Photo: Anav Silverman/Tazpit News Agency.

“I found that the radical Islamic doctrine that I grew up with and my own belief in violent jihad could no longer support the truth I once believed in.”

That realization prompted Hafeez to visit Israel. “I kind of hoped that the visit to Israel would be a negative experience, that it would enable me to go back to my former beliefs,” he told Tazpit News Agency.

But the visit was eye-opening for Hafeez, who says he fell in love with Israel during his first trip. “It’s hard not to support Israel,” says the soft-spoken Hafeez, who recently participated in the Jerusalem Marathon. “I encountered Israelis who weren’t anti-Arab, or anti-Islam and saw that this wasn’t some apartheid state.”

However, coming out in support of Israel hasn’t been easy. Hafeez has become isolated from his friends. “It’s a lot of hassle – it really disrupts your life when you become vocal and open about your support for the Jewish state.”

“What people don’t understand, is that it doesn’t matter if you bend over backwards for radical Islamists. If you are Jewish, they will hate you no matter what,” Hafeez said.

Rev. Majed El Shafie, the founder of One Free World International (OFWI), a leading organization which advocates for religious minorities globally, echoed similar sentiments. A Muslim who converted to Christianity, he found political asylum in Canada and believes that the silence of moderate Muslims is more dangerous than the rise of extremists.

“They [moderate Muslims] must speak up,” says Rev. El Shafie. “Anti-Semitism is everyone’s problem. The moderate Muslims don’t understand that after the radical Muslims finish with the Christians, Bahai, and Jews, they will come after them. The minute we stop fighting for each other, we lose our humanity,” he added.

Rev. El Shafie believes that education is the solution to radicalization and is the only way to bring forth democracy in the Middle East. “The Arab Spring is a cold deadly winter. Whoever came up with the term ‘Arab Spring’ must have been a guy in a suit behind a desk who had no idea what was really going on.”

“Today all these dictatorships that have been overthrown are filled with extremist governments. There is no separation of religion and state and no freedom of religion in the Middle East. Education must come before democracy”

As for Israel, Rev. El Shafie declares that there are two things that the Jewish state cannot be questioned for. “When Israel’s right to exist and Israel’s right to defend itself, come into question, a line has been crossed,” he stated. “The new anti-Semitism today is to hate Israel.”

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  • March 07, 2013

    I have resigned from the metuchen edison clegy association. I AM A PAST PRESIDENT. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

    I have resigned from the metuchen edison clegy association. I AM A PAST PRESIDENT. Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

    HATIKVAH has been included in every service since I created interfaith holocaust services in 1974 with no objection. N0 ONE HAS EVER WALKED out, sat down OR OBJECTED until recently. With Israel and Jews being attacked throughout the world, I PERSONALLY will and have fought to keep it in. We are living in a world where anti-SEMITISM is rampant especially in Europe where JEWS ARE FLEEING IN MASS to Israel and other countries. Everyone is entitled to their OWN opinion , I stand by mine. Another Holocaust is on the horizon. A nuclear extremist muslim regime would like nothing better than the complete destruction of Israel and if you listen to Morsi all Jews should perish.
    I will be the keynote speaker at another Holocaust event that evening. I refuse to compromise my beliefs or allow the Hatikvah to be disgraced. I am taking my highway to what I believe in. Rabbi DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG

  • J.B. Roth

    This is certain a beautifully, positive thing. I wonder if Kasim Hafeez, and Rev. Majed El Shafie know about the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who, in 1948, told all the Arabs to leave Israel so that he and his army could murder all the Jews, then the Arabs could return to reclaim all the land.

  • franky

    nice after nonie darwish waffa sultan brigite Gabriel and the others ,hope hope for peace is stonger now ,
    shalom salam peace and let`s enjoy life.

  • K.B. Lum

    Ik ben zeer sceptisch.
    Bij een grote groep Moslims zal de wens tot gelijke beoordeling wel aanwezig zijn, maar bij miljoenen anderen overheerst de religieuze overtuiging van het tegenovergestelde.
    Maar ergens moet een begin gevonden worden en laten we hopen dat zich die zienswijze snel verspreidt.

  • Alison Weston

    This has cheered me up no end. Have been waiting since 9/11 for the moderate muslims to stand up and be counted. Now we need the media to cease their anti Israel/anti-semitic onslaught.

    • Neil Katz, M.D.

      Two moderate Muslims speak out and 1.2 billion Muslims remain still in dark, silence.

  • Illan

    Well this is refreshing to see – I hope it reflects a new start of only good things to follow

  • aall55

    So maybe there is hope ?

    It would be to a great for both sides .

  • Fred

    Well, something of a change into the right direction. There is a silver lining , the anti Jewish( Israel) bloated world shows there are people with sense who can’t stomach the fare of untrammelled hatred. There should be more coming out to coumter hatred.

  • Mark

    I happen to have met Kasim Hafeez personally and can attest to the power of his message (which basically is that hate is poison) and his dignity in handling very difficult situations.

  • Hear that Billy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker……oh, Elvis Costello

  • I commend Hafeez and his coworkers for their common sense. Thank you for standing up for what you know is right. We need more people like you in this world.

    • Nomi

      And I join you. commendable………..We definitely need more institutions like this.
      Have a nice weekend :-0

  • it is only from the God of heaven in whomever you believe in that is able to bring Israelis and Muslims together in peace a piece of respect for each others beliefs I am a Christian and have a respect for both except for those radical beliefs whether they be Islamic Christian or Israeli that would want to do anybody any harm for we are put on this planet to live together in respect especially for each other’s beliefs or lack thereof and I have it in my own family but I love them anyway sincerely yours Andrew Ellis

  • Fredric M. London

    Very gratifying! I hope that this message grows and more people speak out!