Category: Anti-Semitism

Holocaust Educational Trust Book of Commitment

Lord Sheikh signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Lords.

He said that we should all get together to combat anti-Semitism which is creeping into the country. He made the point that we should never forget the inhumane and terrible treatment of the people who suffered during the Holocaust and we should never let this happen again against any community.

Religious Persecution

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Elton for introducing this important and timely debate. Religious persecution has, unfortunately, been a recurring theme in societies throughout history. Historically, people of faith have been targets for persecution and discriminatory practices.

Although the title of this debate refers to the extent of persecution in this century, I will first touch on an event which occurred in the 20th century but which has had a lasting impact. When discussing religious persecution, I must draw upon the horrors of the Holocaust. This was the state-sponsored killing of 6 million people of the Jewish faith. We must not allow anything like this ever to happen again. I fully support the setting up of a Holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

I have previously spoken in your Lordships’ House about the abhorrence of anti-Semitism. The fact that anti-Semitism is still prevalent in many societies is a great cause for concern. It suggests that there remains more work to be done in educating communities about historical injustices that must never be repeated. I was disturbed to learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to launch a formal investigation into reports of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any such behaviour in a political party is totally unacceptable. Something is not quite right in the Labour Party if three Members of your Lordships’ House have recently resigned from it. The party must take remedial action immediately.

In December 2018, I led a debate in your Lordships’ house on Islamophobia in the UK. Shortage of time means that I cannot go into the details here. I simply ask the Minister whether the Government now accept the definition of Islamophobia proposed by the APPG on British Muslims, to ensure that we can make meaningful change for Muslims in the UK. The Balkan wars of the 1990s were driven by nationalism and culminated in the enforced deportation and senseless bloodshed of civilians, and the destruction of religious sites such as the 16th century Ferhadija mosque in Bosnia. This week is the UK’s Srebrenica memorial week, and we should always remember the Srebrenica massacre.

We can draw parallels between past events in the Balkans and the present situation in Myanmar. The Rohingya have been brutally persecuted in Myanmar and driven out of their homes in Rakhine State. The Burmese army has led a pogrom against the Rohingya, and has been accused of raping, torturing and killing citizens while systematically burning Rohingya villages. This has led to the displacement of more than 1 million citizens. The United Nations Human Rights Council has referred to the treatment of the Rohingya as genocide. I would be grateful if the Minister informed your Lordships’ House whether Her Majesty’s Government would support efforts by the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

I have spoken in your Lordships’ House and elsewhere against the persecution of minorities. Most recently, I spoke in a debate in the Moses Room regarding the rights of minorities, in particular of Christians in ?Pakistan. What are we doing to provide assistance to Pakistan to improve the position of minorities in that country? Unfortunately, some people have hateful ideologies and discriminate against anyone who is different from them in any way. The plight of the Uighurs in China has worsened, with estimates of the number who have been detained without trial in so-called vocational and educational training camps varying from several hundred thousand to more than 1 million citizens. What representations have the Government made, alongside international partners, to the Chinese authorities in this regard?

Christians in China have been subjected to harassment and intimidation by the authorities, and there has been interference with where and how they can worship. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro detailed in his recent report the extent of the increased discrimination against the Chinese Christian community, and commented on discrimination against Christians in several other countries. What steps are the Government proposing to take to implement the recommendations made by the right reverend Prelate?

I wholeheartedly support the efforts and investments made by the Government to defend the right to religious freedom. I also welcome the fact that the UN General Assembly has recently adopted a resolution for an international day commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. It is vital that we parliamentarians show leadership, stand in solidarity against all types of faith-based discrimination and adopt a societal philosophy that an attack on one group is an attack on us all.

I end with a famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me”. There is a powerful message in this poem.

Anti-Semitism

My Lords, I have spoken on several occasions in your Lordships’ House against all types of discrimination. As human beings, we have the right to be judged as individuals, irrespective of ethnicity, nationality or religious beliefs. The number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents, which range from vandalism to physical violence, has risen. The charity, Community Security Trust, counted 1,652 such incidents in 2018 which is the highest annual total since the charity was founded in 1984. The Anti-Defamation League also states that there has been a sharp increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents. There is a correlation between the rise of populism and bigotry. The United Nations Secretary-General has spoken about the corrosive impact of populism in fuelling, “racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia”, in our societies. We as parliamentarians have a duty to challenge and reject the inflammatory rhetoric used by populists to sow division within our communities. Social media have proven to be an aggravating factor in the fight against all forms of discrimination. I should be grateful if the Minister informed noble Lords about any discussions which have taken place with social media providers about their obligations in this matter.

As your Lordships are painfully aware, anti-Semitism has deep roots in Europe. The number of anti-Semitic acts in France rose by 74% in 2018, and 1,646 instances of anti-Semitism were recorded in Germany last year. A united approach is needed to tackle anti-Semitism in Europe, which is why I wholeheartedly support the action plan of the European Jewish Congress. This plan urges the EU’s 28 member states, individually and collectively, to allocate greater resources for monitoring and measuring anti-Semitism. European leaders have since pledged to work together to make life safer for European Jews. I would be grateful if my noble friend the Minister informed your Lordships’ House as to the steps Her Majesty’s Government are taking to honour this pledge.

One of the greatest tenets in British society is an individual’s right to freedom of speech, but this freedom must be exercised with care. I am concerned when ?those in positions of influence wilfully spread conspiracy theories about particular groups in our society. I was therefore greatly concerned to learn that the Equality and Human Rights Commission felt it necessary to launch a formal investigation into reports of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Any such behaviour in a political party is totally unacceptable.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is not limited to Europe. The Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and Charlottesville clashes in the United States were bleak reminders of the threat facing innocent people from hateful ideology. Those who harbour such views do not limit their bigotry to one group but discriminate against anyone who is different from them in any way. It is vital that we as parliamentarians show leadership in our communities when it comes to fighting anti-Semitism or any form of bigotry. Let us all get together to fight anti-Semitism.

 

Holocaust Memorial Day

Lord Sheikh attended the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Parliamentary Reception. Lord sheikh met with survivors of the Holocaust and genocide, such as Helen Aronson who survived the Holocaust as a teenager.

 

Holocaust Memorial Day is an important remembrance of the horrific and tragic events of the Holocaust. The day is held on 27th January every year and the date marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. The day remembers not only the six million Jews murdered during the holocaust but also the millions of people killed under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

 

Lord Sheikh said “The experiences of survivors such as Helen remind us about the importance of marking Holocaust Memorial Day – a day when we remember the millions of people who were affected by the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. I want to encourage others to mark HMD on 27 January 2019.”