I was dismayed to read the article "Holocaust Memorial Day? We’re busy - send whoever you can find" by Martin Bright on page 4 of the 29 January 2010 issue. I was about to suggest that the editor hire a better journalist but then saw the editorial on page 30 "MCB's true colours" and realised that the editor is in the same place. It leads me to doubt whether the JC wishes to be seen as a serious newspaper.
Mr Bright correctly points out that the MCB secretary-general, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari could not attend as he was committed to the World Economic Forum in Davos. (Dr. Bari was not merely attending; he was due to speak on a panel.) I am disappointed that in his article Mr Bright is unable to spell Dr. Bari's first name correctly. I am content to accept this as an error but suspect that if a similar mistake in respect of the president of the Board of Deputies had been committed by a Muslim newspaper, Mr Bright would assume it to be an intended slight.
Mr. Bright goes on to write: "Nor was his controversial deputy Dr Daoud [sic] Abdullah or any of the three assistant secretary generals available." The inability to correctly spell Dr Daud Abdullah’s first name is a sign of sloppiness. The pedant in me cannot resist pointing out that the correct plural of assistant secretary general is assistant secretaries general!
Mr. Bright finally gets the spelling correct when he informs us that the MCB was represented by Dr. Shuja Shafi, who is the chair of the MCB's Chaplaincy Committee. He clearly considers Dr Shafi to be an unsuitable representative as he quotes an “anonymous senior member of the Jewish community close to the event” as saying "It seems like the janitor wasn't available." I always find it hard to respect those who choose to hide behind the cloak of anonymity.
The overall tone of Mr. Bright's piece is disappointing. The above quote from the article implies that Mr. Bright is unhappy that Dr. Abdullah was not available to attend. However one does not need to be a prophet to predict that if Dr. Abdullah had attended as the MCB's representative, Mr. Bright’s headline would have read something like "MCB insults HMD by sending Dr. Abdullah." I doubt if anything would have satisfied Mr. Bright other than Dr. Bari reneging on his long-standing commitment to speak at Davos, and perhaps not even that.
Finally, I am unhappy about the implied aspersions being cast at Dr. Shafi’s status or appropriateness as representative of the MCB. He is both the chair of one of the MCB’s committees and a member of the Central Working Committee which is the main decision taking body of the MCB.
I was present at the HMD commemoration myself since I was invited in my capacity of vice-chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum. I saw Dr. Shafi in conversation with the chair of the HMD Trust, with the president of the Board of Deputies and personally introduced him to the Israeli ambassador. Unlike Mr. Bright, none of them considered Dr. Shafi unworthy.
The Muslim and Jewish communities in Britain face many common challenges, not least of which is the British National Party. While the BNP presently directs its messages against the Muslim community, I do not know a single Jew who regards the BNP as a friend. In this environment, please can Mr. Bright and indeed the editor stop their petty sniping at the MCB; it does not reflect well on them.
The original blog posting can also be read on my blog at the website of the Jewish Chronicle.