Haras Rafiq began his activism against terrorism after his 7-year-old daughter came home from school in London and said, “I don’t want to be a Muslim. They are always killing people.”
Rafiq is CEO of Quilliam, a London-based organization dedicated to combatting political extremism. He was one of the speakers at a recent conference in Italy titled “Contemporary Antisemitism as a Gateway to Terrorism.”
In attendance was Barbara Wind, director of the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest. From Sept. 13 to 15 she and some 60 other delegates convened at the Vatican, the Italian Parliament, and the University of Rome for a conference on the hatred of Jews as an influence on terrorism, a subject vital to her mission of educating young people about the atrocities of genocide.
Upon her return Wind told NJJN, “It was very interesting to get a group of Christians, Muslims, and Jews together to focus on anti-Semitism as a springboard for terrorism, hatred, and war.” The conference was organized by the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism (ISGAP).
Noting that the majority of the world’s terror victims are Muslim, she said the motivations of terrorists “always begins with anti-Semitism that is appreciated by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and extremist Muslims.”
Charles Asher Small, director of ISGAP International, told NJJN that the core of political Islam is anti-Semitic. “They took Nazi ideology and fused it with Islamic thought. For too long people have dismissed the anti-Semitism as having something to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
He said “several American administrations have viewed this as a short-term problem. Now we recognize this as a long-term problem.”
For instance, Small said, the Obama administration’s effort to bring Iran back into the family of nations had “emboldened a regime that is anti-democratic, anti-American, and certainly anti-Semitic and anti-moderate.”
To Wind, it appeared that the moderate Muslims at the conference were “more concerned than others” about co-religionists “who are being seduced into killing themselves, and [about] the backlash it has created against Muslims in general. It can’t be us, the non-Muslim world,” who can successfully dissuade militant Muslims from becoming terrorists.
Small said “everybody has a profound moral responsibility to do something — not for short-term benefit but to take a principled stand and defeat this ideology.”
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair delivered the keynote speech at the Vatican, urging those present to speak out on the important themes of respect for others, tolerance, and religious freedom.
“Religion should not be politicized, and when it becomes totalitarian ideology, it becomes a danger because it excludes other minorities,” he said.
Several Israelis were in attendance including Knesset member Anat Berko, Ambassadors Oren David and Ofer Sachs, and academics Mordechai Kedar and Dina Lisnyansky.
Wind told NJJN she had one special message to impart to Holocaust Council volunteers, especially when they visit schools to talk to young people about the Holocaust and other atrocities.
“We have to focus on the fact that more Muslims are dying from terrorist activity than any other group. This is something non-Muslim students as well as Muslim students have to learn. Given how much hate is out there, people should be asked, ‘Who are your leaders and who are your idols and are you willing to die for them?’”