• December 6, 2007
  • 6 minutes read

Forgetting to remember

Forgetting to remember

When the MCB leadership emerged from their meeting on Saturday with the news that they had decided to end their boycott of the Holocaust memorial day, I expected to hear that something significant had occurred that led to this shift in position. The decision not to accept the invitation of the organising committee over recent years has led to immense pressure and often censure from a variety of sources, including the government, as well as a barrage of attacks from the media brigade, along with the much-used accusations of antisemitism and extremism.

In essence the price paid by the MCB and its affiliates for its previous principled stand was dear on all fronts, although it gained much unnoticed and unreported praise from an array of sectors. Added to this, a recent internal survey of its affiliates showed an overwhelming majority support for the MCB”s decision not to attend in previous years.

However, if you were expecting something seismic to have occurred in order to reverse the decision, you were to be bitterly disappointed. Nothing whatsoever had changed. Many members claim they were not informed that the discussion was to be followed by a vote and so did not attend. All this raises some serious questions as to how this process was conducted.

Even more confusing is the statement given by the assistant general secretary of the MCB, Inayat Bunglawala, to the Guardian:

“We have always sought a more inclusive title such as genocide memorial day so that it would also give recognition to more recent massacres such as in Rwanda and that of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica”.

Well, the event is still called the Holocaust memorial day, despite proposals that the title should be more inclusive, and moreover, the Holocaust Educational Trust addressed Bunglalwala”s concern that Rwanda and Srebrenica had actually been commemorated in past HMD events. So once again … what”s new? Why did the MCB apparently give in to the pressure and vilification of the pro-Zionist lobby and those who could not bring themselves to listen to the argument proposed by the MCB and other organisations if nothing had changed?

While many will pose resolutions to that particular question, it is striking that Bunglawala and all those who have spoken for the change in policy have failed to give even a passing mention of the party whose suffering is paramount in this whole scenario, namely the Palestinians. The whole issue with the HMD event is that rather than a mere remembrance of victims of one of the most heinous crimes in history, it has become a political event. It glorifies the state of Israel, turning a collective blind eye to the immeasurable suffering of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis every single day.

Rather than remembering the dead and vowing never to allow similar crimes to occur ever again the event, led by the Israeli ambassador in London, keeps similar crimes hidden, lest the memories of those who died in Nazi camps be disturbed. Even prominent Jewish intellectuals and politicians, themselves children of victims, spoke of what they coined the “Holocaust industry” announcing their refusal to participate in the farce it has become.

One argument of those who refused to attend the HMD event was that the victims of Israeli crimes must also be remembered and, unless that wrong is corrected, this event can only be seen as a desecration of the memories of those who have died under tyranny, injustice and oppression – regardless of their religion, ideology or race.

The sad thing about this saga is that having held firm for many years and gained the backing of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the MCB now seems to have made its decision as a result of pressure from the government and certain sectors of the media. It betrays a position of weakness, suggesting that we will relent and change our ways as long as you keep up the pressure.

Despite this sorry episode, Muslims and non-Muslims around the world will never forget Palestine. Only time will tell what impact this will have on the MCB, internally and otherwise, particularly considering its umbrella organisation status. In the meantime, there can be little doubt, even in the minds of those leading the MCB, that the people are not behind them on this matter. When it comes to Palestine and the crimes being perpetrated against its civilians over the past 60 years, there can be little room for politicking or vying for long-lost and much-coveted places on the table of conformity.