Double standards on freedom of speech?

I represented SJJP at a public meeting last night organised by Amina, the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre in Glasgow. Under the title ‘The War on Islam and the Double Standards of Freedom of Speech’, the panel consisted of Aamer Anwar — Scotland’s leading Human rights lawyer, Amal Azzudin — one of the ‘Glasgow Girls’ who is a community activist and campaigner, and Shaykh Abdal-Aziz Ahmed — an Islamic Scholar and teacher. Around sixty people attended and participated in a lively discussion about the impact of the Charlie Hebdo killings and related attacks on Jewish people in Paris and Copenhagen. The panel focused on the implications for minority communities in the wake of the attacks and the consequences for greater levels of Islamophobia within a context of growing racism in Europe. The audience raised questions ranging from how to tackle racism to the challenges of achieving community integration with panel members responding about the need for unity and avoiding wedges being driven between Muslim and Jewish communities as a consequence of the attacks. Continue reading Double standards on freedom of speech?

Joint Fast and Vigil with Scottish Islamic Foundation

Candlelit vigil for Gaza

On a very cold December evening in Glasgow over 70 people gathered to mark the 1st anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead – the 22 day assault on Gaza which resulted in the deaths of over 1400 Palestinians, thousand of injuries and the wholesale destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure. The candlelit vigil was jointly called by the Scottish Islamic Foundation and SJJP and supported by many other groups and individuals. The day coincided with the Muslim festival of Ashura when Sunni Muslims believe that Moses freed the Jews from Egypt and is marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Given the continuing oppression of Gazans through Israel’s blockade and Egyptian support, the symbolism (and indeed, irony) of the event was not lost on those present. In time honoured tradition, the Ashura fast was broken with the breaking of Samosas and Matzoh!

Speakers at the event included MSPs Sandra White and Pauline McNeil, both staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause alongside speakers from the Muslim community and support groups. Our own speaker rounded off the event and focused on the impact the war and blockade is having on children in Gaza – particularly relevant given the time of year when children are very much in our minds. This was a sombre and powerful event; and significant, perhaps not in terms of numbers, but both symbolically and practically. Joint initiatives like this involving Jews, Muslims and other sections of civil society demonstrate a number of things – that criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic as others would have us believe; that there is a joint will for peace and justice in the Middle East and that strong constructive relationships can be built here and now between our communities – a real building block for the future. We should actively pursue further opportunities to engage with the Muslim community and develop a real dialogue over how we can work towards a just peace. We can maybe sometimes underestimate the impact of our network and what our collective activity can achieve.