Statement from Islamic Society of Britain on the mounting humanitarian
catastrophe in Gaza
28th November 2023
As a faith organisation representing Muslim communities across the UK, we are shocked at the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Over 15,000 Gazans have been indiscriminately killed since 7th October, including over 6000 children. Firstly, we are dismayed at the inability of our local elected representatives, as well as Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, to call for a ceasefire during the recent parliamentary vote. This is at odds with the sentiments of their constituents; YouGov’s poll published on 19th October showed that 58% of those surveyed wanted an immediate ceasefire. (1) We have also seen weekly protests across UK cities to demand a ceasefire, with over 800,000 attending the London march on 11th November.
Secondly, we work with Muslim youth, and so are compelled to address the impact on our young people in Britain, both on their mental health and freedom of speech. Students have been censored when expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian civilians killed, and prevented from fundraising for humanitarian relief organisations. We appeal to educational institutions to facilitate students’ positive dialogue and humanitarian support to the people of Gaza. We are equally concerned by politicians using this catastrophe to curtail freedom of speech (such as when demonising ceasefire marches), which is a basic human right and British value.
Major UK and worldwide humanitarian organisations, as well as several Israeli organisations, (2) have called for a ceasefire to allow life-saving humanitarian aid to reach the civilians in Gaza. Amnesty International classifies the Israeli government’s actions as war crimes (3) and apartheid, (4) and the United Nations human rights experts warn of a “genocide in the making” (5) as Israel attempts to justify this “ethnic cleansing”. (6)
We and the Muslim community have been united in grief, prayer, and campaigning to highlight the plight of innocent civilians caught up in the violence in the Middle East. As Muslims, we wholeheartedly condemn the loss of innocent lives on both sides. We call for a complete ceasefire, return of hostages as well as release of children and civilians detained without charge. There must be renewed and sincere efforts for a lasting peace. The Qur’an explicitly prohibits the taking of innocent life (5:32).
We also need to acknowledge that for 75 years, Palestinians have endured illegal Israeli
occupation, oppression, apartheid, and the indiscriminate killing of thousands of civilians. They have been attacked in their homes, places of worship, hospitals, schools and refugee camps. We call for adherence to international law, and an immediate end to this cycle of violence. Our elected representatives and the international community must act to end the illegal occupation of Palestine, the root cause of this violence.
With this dire situation in mind, we are shocked that schools especially are stifling expressions of support for Palestinians. We are concerned by the impact this is having on children who have been traumatised by the imagery available online, yet are prevented from discussing the injustice.
Silencing discussion of Gaza (in both schools and universities) is extremely damaging to
students’ sense of justice. During humanitarian disasters, the normal state of affairs would be to encourage markers of empathy with those suffering intolerably. Fundraising and humanitarian support through clothes, symbols and so on is not political, and is encouraged for other vital issues such as anti-racism, the Ukraine war, etc.
Young people need safe spaces to share their concerns and views. If language is chosen
carefully and codes of conduct are adhered to, well-managed conversations can be beneficial
We utterly condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that are further fuelled by the ongoing violence. No one should feel unsafe in their own neighbourhoods. We should not allow this issue to be used, by extremists in society, to sow discord and hatred in this great diverse, multicultural society that we live in. We are disheartened by the rhetoric within our government and media that reinforces anti-Muslim prejudices. Our government should unite communities, not divide them.
Islamic Society of Britain will continue to play our role in educating our members and beyond on the sanctity of life. We will continue to engage with local and national community leaders and organisations to support British Muslims to combat Islamophobia and to call for a ceasefire.
Islamic Society of Britain