Britain's Muslims are keeping us on the right side of history in Gaza

Britain's Muslims are keeping us on the right side of history in Gaza
Solidarity with Gaza is smeared by those who always question Muslims' motives, but we must thank British Muslims for guiding our conscience, writes Ross Slater.
5 min read
14 Dec, 2023
British Muslims have been at the forefront of organising efforts to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 18,600 Palestinians have been killed by Israel. [Getty]

One of the myths that Britain likes to tell itself is of standing up for the underdog. Sure, some historical events cast doubt on this track record, but most of us like to think that backing David when faced with Goliath is in our DNA.

It is certainly a role-play beloved by our politicians and media commentators. Only last year, they were conducting an orchestra of outrage at Russia, and piling in on the side of plucky little Ukraine.   

For a conflict where, unusually, our historic footprint was minimal, we brought out the bunting, we lit up the football stadiums, we opened our homes and emptied our military reserves.  

Explaining the economic costs involved, the great and the good assured us that this was a moral imperative. It was ‘what Britain does’.   

But what happens when these conductors of our national conscience go missing in action? 

"What our media can’t bear is large numbers of British Muslims doing things which, if anyone else did it, would be considered praiseworthy and in the best tradition of British protest"

When they see the world’s most advanced weapons systems murdering 18,600 Palestinians at an unprecedented speed while denying 2.3 million people the means of life, and just don’t react?

Judging by the millions who have now marched for a ceasefire in Gaza, the answer is that Britain’s Muslim community steps into the moral vacuum and the gatekeepers of the public square go ballistic.  

The protests were immediately dubbed ‘hate marches’, those taking part smeared as Hamas supporters, Nazism invoked and slogans for peace twisted into calls for annihilation.   

As each weekend drew greater numbers, and still minimal arrests, the language became ever more unhinged. By Armistice weekend, those opposing the marches were all but encouraging a far-right counter-demonstration.  

That was the weekend I drove to London from the Midlands to show some physical solidarity with the people of Gaza and judge the atmosphere for myself.   

My friend, a man in his late fifties, half-jokingly suggested we bring armbands in case fitter, stronger GB News fans decided to dunk us both in the Thames.   

The reality was that we felt incredibly safe. 

At the Cenotaph, it was the far-right protesters who had resorted to violence, attacking Met Police officers, drunk and frustrated that all they’d read about ‘Hamas supporters’ hijacking the Armistice was nothing more than propaganda.   

At the Palestine protest, we felt safe because of the sheer numbers, alongside almost one million marching peacefully. And for that, the biggest praise should go to Britain’s Muslim community, who came out en masse to call for a ceasefire. Men, women, and little children all marched together.

The Muslim community may have been the vanguard but every faith, every class and every colour was represented.   

And it makes the arguments put forward by po-faced commentators that these marches show the ‘failure of multiculturalism’ even more offensive.   

What our media can’t bear is large numbers of British Muslims doing things which, if anyone else did it, would be considered praiseworthy and in the best tradition of British protest.  

You see, it has been a rule in this country, at least since 9/11, that anything the Muslim community does must be criticised, their motives questioned, and terrorism invoked.  

Never mind that Muslim communities are over-represented among the caring professions, never mind that their charitable instincts make them invaluable during times of crisis as we saw during Covid. Only negative framing is permissible.   

Last year, I sat among a small pack of reporters in Derby waiting for a grisly alleged murderer to make his first appearance.   

As we waited, three white English men appeared before the court on child grooming offences. It was a brief appearance and soon they were gone.   

I discussed this with a reporter from ITV and we both agreed that if it had been three young men from Muslim backgrounds, the press benches would have been filled to record it.   

"Right now the Muslim community is helping to keep us on the right side of history"

This is not to pretend that Muslim communities are perfect or should be beyond criticism but it does reflect that they are held to a higher standard, their worst traits exaggerated and portrayed as the norm.  

It is a perverse way of bringing about better community relations. In fact it looks like the opposite.   

What makes this deluge of negativity especially grotesque is that it comes from the very same people who bang on constantly about their fears for community relations whenever Israel faces criticism and its supporters invoke antisemitism.  

The very same people whose sudden interest in ‘racism’ came when they discovered ‘white victims’ and ‘brown perpetrators’ of this phenomena.  

But you only have to look at the world’s reaction to the slaughter in Gaza – be it on the streets or in the votes of the United Nations - to see how out of step they are.  

Imagine for a moment that we stuck to the script set out for us by our politicians and their media courtiers.   

Imagine if we, Britain, the country that played such a unique role in enabling Israel’s colonisation of what was then Mandatory Palestine, had no marches for a ceasefire.  

How would that look when across the globe people in cities with no such connections or responsibilities are marching in unprecedented numbers for peace and justice?  

It would be a diplomatic disaster, and right now the Muslim community is helping to keep us on the right side of history.   

They are acting as our national conscience, and they deserve praise not condemnation for that.

Ross Slater is a freelance journalist based in the Midlands who has reported for all of the UK's major news providers over the past 35 years. He is a former winner of the 'Scoop of the Year' award at the press 'Oscars'. 

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.