The Jewish Chronicle interview with newly appointed UKIP candidate for Hendon, Raymond Shamash, was telling in a number of ways. Mr Shamash has been appointed after the resignation of Jeremy Zeid after his call for the Israeli Government to kidnap the US President, Barack Obama.
The first was the way in which Mr Shamash viewed Jewish and Muslim relations, as though they are seen through a ‘them and us’ approach. The second was the way that he placed Muslims as an amorphous mass, a block of people that he feared and “who were ideologically and religiously opposed to us (Jews).” His exact comment to the Jewish Chronicle is listed below where all 2.8 million Muslims are characterised as being without diverse opinions, outlooks and identities. Mr Shamash stated:
“There are 2.8 million people [in the UK] who are ideologically and religiously opposed to us. I am fearful of a minority that sees us Jews as a potential target for attack.”
“There are 300,000 Jews in the UK, there are around 2.8 Muslims. The scale, the pace, you cannot compare.”
What is also telling is the following statement that Mr Shamash gave:
“Shechita is safe (with Ukip), Nigel Farage over-ruled them (UKIP’s National Executive Committee).”
“He said Shechita was safe. I suppose the Jewish community got caught in the cross-fire. I am not sure about all religious slaughter, but it would seem inequitable to protect one and not the other.”
The term ‘cross-fire’ seems to imply that the Jewish community was caught up in UKIP’s desire to tackle religious slaughter, quite possibly targeted towards Muslim communities and Halal meat? If that was the case, then Mr Shamash’s statement is inaccurate since UKIP’s National Executive Committee made a clear ruling that all animals killed in the UK for dietary purposes must be pre-stunned.
This decision would have had a greater impact on Jewish communities since we have stated before that stunning is a contentious issue within Muslim communities and most of the Halal meat prepared for consumption in the UK is pre-stunned. So either the suggestion that UKIP did not mean to target Shechita food is inaccurate or disingenous, or UKIP’s National Executive Committee were not aware of this important fact. You take your pick.
Finally, for the record, Muslim and Jewish communities do not perceive themselves through the lenses of a ‘them and us’ approach. Yes, there is fear of Jihadi extremists and no-one can deny that since they have killed and targeted Jewish institutions. This ideology needs to be tackled and tackled without quarter through counter-narratives, support for mentoring for radicalised individuals and dare we say, through military means where they pose a real physical threat to communities.
Today, there is a great deal of work being done in communities up and down our country to ensure that Muslim and Jewish relations flourish and develop. There are numerous interfaith programmes, discussions, meetings and engagement points between the two communities. Let us also not forget how one community has stood up for the other at times of need.
No-one denies that there are strained relationships when the Middle East flares up. However, to view both communities as being in polar places does not reflect the ebb and flow of community relations and where, increasingly, young Jews and Muslims do not harbour animosity towards each other because of Israel / Palestine, but a desire to find out more about each other.