Ashgar Bukhari, a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, who reportedly resigned from the organisation in September 2015, has recently defended the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, after he was given a dressing down by fellow Muslim Mehdi Hasan on the topic of several antisemitic comments he had made.
Mahathir Mohamed had said that “the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them”. He wrote in 2012 that he was “glad to be labelled as antisemitic” and described sympathy with Jewish victims of the Holocaust as “wasted and misplaced”.
Astonishly, Bukhari defended the comments, bizzarely suggesting that the “whole argument revolved around the…use of the word Jew”, which he contended could either be used positively or negatively. This is clearly factually incorrect, and a brazen misreading of the conversation. Hasan contended that Jews should not be collectively held responsible for Israel, and described the comments as antisemitic.
Saying that sympathy for victims of the Holocaust is “wasted and misplaced” is not a disagreement over the usage of the word “Jew”, but is a shameless attempt to delegitimise the irrefutable historical facts of the Holocaust and to dehumanise its victims. Indeed, when read alongside statements, which he refused to retract in the interview, that Jews “rule the world by proxy”, such a comment could easily be taken as him expressing the view that the Holocaust was somehow justified. Yet Ashgar Bukhari says that it is “wrong to call the Former Prime Minister of Malaysia antisemitic”.
Similarly, claims that Jews control world affairs are antisemitic according to the International Definition of Antisemitism which states that it is antisemitic to make “mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions”. The claim that Jews “get others to fight and die for them” is particularly pernicious, and borders on blood libel, as well as suggesting a belief that Jews cause many of the world’s wars, a belief that Campaign Against Antisemitism research found to be held by 26% of British Muslims. These are not comments a Muslim community figurehead in the UK should be defending.
When researching this, we discovered that Bukhari had announced his resignation from MPAC in a Facebook post on September 11th 2015. In the post, he wrote that Muslims send money abroad to help war torn Islamic countries “never realising that the bombs only fell because the Government and Zionists taught society to hate Muslims right here”. According to the International Definition of Antisemitism, it is antisemitic to use “the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism”, amongst which the canard of Jews controlling world affairs could be considered, to speak about Zionists. This is an example of a leader in the Muslim community, who even styles himself as a “reformer”, using his last act as a figurehead of a Muslim communal organisation to spread an antisemitic canard, providing Muslims in the UK with an easy scapegoat for their problems, and the actions of Western governments.
Bukhari has been no stranger to antisemitism. Several years ago he was forced to repudiate David Irving, the British Holocaust denier, to whom he had sent £6000, which he claims he did under the belief that he was merely an “anti-Zionist” who had been smeared as something much worse. He also famously accused Mossad of breaking into his house and stealing one of his shoes and claimed that “any Muslim who fights and dies against Israel and dies is a martyr and will be granted paradise”. Despite this, he has been allowed to speak for British Muslims on numerous occasions, both in his capacity as a founder of MPAC UK and independently, including appearances on BBC News, The James O’Brien Show, LBC, Sky News and The Big Questions.