Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London
The Queen’s Walk
Wednesday 21 June 2017
Dear Mayor Khan,
The racist attacks on Al-Quds Day 2017, London
I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the treatment of this event this year, to demand an appropriate response from your office, and to express my deep disappointment at the role you and your office appeared to have played in what can only be described as a racist and Islamophobic attack on one of London’s crucial multi-faith and multi-cultural events. The attacks have been so severe that it is not an understatement to say that they raised the level of anti-Muslim hatred to new levels of toxicity, culminating in a show long tirade by Majid Nawaaz on his LBC radio show on Sunday. Imagine our disappointment to find that you had been lauded by those orchestrating this year’s campaign against Al-Quds, as having facilitated their attempts to have the event banned.
I attach for your ease of reference some of the types of threats and abuse levelled against Al-Quds Day, as well as the articles from Tuesday’s Daily Mirror, The Telegraph and The Guardian stating that the alleged Finsbury Park mosque attacker was evicted from a pub on Saturday because of his racist invectives “while railing against Muslims and the Al Quds Day march in London which took place on Sunday.”
Al-Quds Day, as you are aware, is an anti-racism event that brings together people of many faiths, including and especially Jewish groups and individuals, in protesting against racism and apartheid perpetrated and enacted by the Israeli state, and the wider issues of the oppression of Palestinians. For a suggestion that an event calling for peace and justice to be banned is an outrageous attack on the right to protest and on anti-racism activism. To ask for a ban is without a doubt racist and Islamophobic and should have been decried as such.
Instead we find that you have facilitated a complaint over (according to CAA, attached) the course of year that the march should be banned because some attendees bring Hizbullah flags – a matter that has been clarified year in and year out as entirely legal (and indeed takes place at all pro-Palestinian demonstrations in London to a lesser or greater extent). As a result of this type of demonisation, IHRC as one of the organisers has been attacked on social media and by the Zionist press and campaign groups, whilst social media has been full of racist and Islamophobic slurs and even threats against us, the event’s organisers and supporters, the event itself and against Muslims per se based on this campaign’s unfounded accusations. The usual suspects of right-wing rhetoric and abuse, notably Breitbart.com, The Spectator et. al. have raised time and again the level of anti-Muslim rhetoric and a variety of right-wing leaning and pro-Zionist and Zionist individuals have taken this as a green light to make more extreme racist slurs and threats. This has been echoed and repeated by inter alia Tommy Robinson, who called on supporters to attend the counterdemonstration organised by the Zionist Federation and others), and Jayda Fransen, Paul Golding and Britain First. Responses to the posts by the far-right, included racist abuse as well as threats.
This behaviour should, at the very least, been shunned by your office. As a former human rights lawyer, we would have expected that you take proper action against those raising the temperature of anti-Muslim hatred, and who are trying to curtail one of London’s long-standing traditions of challenging occupation, racism, apartheid and human rights violations. For you to be involved in facilitating it is beyond belief.
The disgraceful state of affairs is compounded now by the news that apparently (at the time of writing) that Darren Osborne the alleged terrorist in the Finsbury Park mosque terror attack, had intended to target the march.
As you are aware, Al-Quds has been held at the end of Ramadan for maybe 30 years in London. It has been organised over the years by various groups working as a committee, all committed to peace and justice in Palestine, which is the focus of the event, as well as across the world. Indeed this year, marchers stood in silence for a minute to remember the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster and held placards demanding #JusticeForGrenfell. Our own organisation is one of those involved, and over the years, as we are sure you are aware many organisations across the diverse communities of this city have joined in support of this event.
We know you are well aware from the visibility of the event and also the communications you have received from supporters of the event including a letter signed by largely Jewish
friends of the Al-Quds Day march (a further copy of which is attached), that this event is an anti-racism event which brings together people from diverse backgrounds to protest for justice in Palestine and for the oppressed around the world.
In our last letter, which you deigned not to answer, we even invited you to attend and witness the atmosphere and ambience of the event.
Despite many years of peaceful protest, these last ten years has seen a rise in far-right, racist and Zionist counter-demonstrations against the protest. Some years there have been attempts by far-right agitators to storm the march and threaten women and children who have taken part. It now appears that the demonisation of Al-Quds Day could have been a factor in the radicalisation of the Finsbury Park mosque attackers. Your office needs to:
- make a clear break from its activities associated with this demonisation;
- make a clear and unequivocal statement in support of anti-racism and the right of people to protest for peace and justice in Palestine;
- apologise to the many many Muslim, Jewish, Christian, other denominational and non-denominational protestors who have attended Al-Quds Day every year for the part your office played in facilitating the demonisation they have faced this year;
- recognise that unbridled anti-Muslim (or other forms of racist rhetoric) has serious consequences, particularly when it is seen to be facilitated from the highest offices of the state.
We look forward to your rejection of the racism levelled against Al-Quds Day and the instrumentalisation of it towards exacerbating the Islamophobic environment and potentiality for violence against Muslims.
In the past we have shared many platforms, and you have submitted work to publications with colleagues from IHRC. You are not unaware of our work or credentials, and indeed you and I sat on the Home Office Stop & Search Community Panel for a number of years. I do not know why you have chosen to align yourself with those who attack former colleagues and the rights of civil society per se and Muslim civil society in particular in favour of an assortment of far-right and Zionist groups.
Whatever the reason, you must see that unless you eschew this course you have taken, your position claiming to represent all Londoners to protect their rights and freedoms, is untenable.