By Rasool Bibi
Karma is a bitch, isn’t it Naz Shah?
This week, anti-Semitic posts made by Naz Shah nine months before she won her seat in Bradford West have been exposed.
As an activist against extremism, if I hadn’t already lost all my faith in her, this would have come as a surprise. We were inspired by her story of overcoming a forced marriage and domestic abuse to become a rising politician and cheered her on. We loudly expressed disgust when George Galloway and many in Naz’s Muslim community led a poisonous campaign to discredit her story by branding her a liar, and stood by her in solidarity. We cheered when she triumphed. Finally, Bradford would get something better, we thought. We believed that this woman, a survivor of extremism, would stand against, and challenge, the people and culture that made her life hell for so long.
How sorely we were disappointed. And as it turns out, around the time when Muslim women like myself were rallying support for Naz Shah against the repugnant, anti-Semitic and misogynist George Galloway, Naz was posting that Israelis should be deported to the USA. She has now been suspended by the Labour party over these comments.
Since she won her seat, Naz let us down in a number of ways. The way she has viciously attacked and smeared organisations such as Quilliam and Inspire — who do a difficult and at times dangerous job in speaking out and challenging extremism — showed how, once in power, her priority appeared to be in appeasing those in her community who had once wanted to bring her down.
“I am one of you, honest!” seemed to be her feeble protest. “Look how I take on those real, nasty native informant.” As I argued in my last piece, this is a tried and tested tactic by prolific Muslims who have upset their audience — vehemently go after those more hated than you.
It seemed to work for Naz. Before long she was buddying up with MEND — an organisation that purports to work towards “Muslim engagement and development” in politics and media. As it transpires, those behind MEND can be described as apologists of extremism and terrorism. They excel at peddling victim narratives that only serve to convince Muslims that the government is Islamophobic. This is an incredibly dangerous game they play, opening Muslims up to an extremist ideology which peddles the narrative that the West is at war with Islam. Naz has been a key speaker at MEND events a number of times.
Another close friend of Naz is Councillor Mohammed Shabbir, who runs a charity with her. He is yet another one who likes to indulge in casual anti-Semitic tweets, a vociferous critic of the government’s counter-extremism measures and a favourite at MEND events. Quelle Surprise!
I wanted to ask MEND if they condemn the posts by both Naz Shah and Councillor Shabbir. But I quickly realised how silly a question that, is given the CEO of MEND, Sufyan Ismail, also has a penchant for sharing Jewish conspiracy theories and whipping up Muslims against Jews.
If I’m going to be completely fair, I don’t think Naz Shah, Councillor Shabbir or Sufyan Ismail realise they are being anti-Semitic. They are simply doing what some other politically active Muslims like to do when they want to win a voice and an audience: grand stand against Israel. The louder and the more viciously you condemn Israel, the more popular you will be with Muslims. After all, isn’t George Galloway an honorary Muslim proof of this? And naturally and dangerously you move into anti-Semitic territory without even realising it.I hope Naz now understands this.
The language we have seen in recent times from Naz, Shabbir, Ismail and a number of other high profile Muslim (including Dilly Hussain, Ayesegul Garbuz and new NUS president Malia Bouatitia), is that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a clear indicator of how poisonous and hateful the discourse has become.
The use of anti-Semitic tropes, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion-esque conspiracy theories and offensive terms like “Zios” have all become mainstream and normalised. This is incredibly alarming. To prove this point, there are plenty of Muslims who argue that using the word anti-Semitism a tool to shut down criticism of Israel. Let me be clear, just because they don’t think it’s anti-Semitism, doesn’t mean they are right.
And now it’s got so bad it can no longer be contained. The casual anti-Semitism of so many Muslims under the mask of Palestinian activism is beginning to leak out and turning into a flood of exposes as we have seen over recent months.
But this could be a good thing. Perhaps now, after Naz’s suspension, these Muslims will forced to confront their words and actions from outside their echo chamber, and the external scrutiny will eventually lead to a more mature and intellectual discourse on the conflict without the poison, where Israeli government policies are challenged, but Jews and Israeli citizens are not demonised in the process.
One can only hope.
Rasool Bibi writes about her experiences living in a “mainstream” Muslim community in the West Midlands, UK. She is what is considered immodest, modern and shameless by her elders and a “coconut” by her neighbours and peer group. Informing on the natives who make life hell for Muslims who don’t fit the mould.