Thousands mark Greek Orthodox Holy Fire rite in Jerusalem

Holy Fire - Jerusalem


Thousands of Christian worshippers celebrated Easter’s Holy Fire Ceremony on Saturday (April 30) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

They packed into the ancient church, believed to be built on the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter Sunday.

At exactly 2 p.m. local time every year, a sunbeam is believed to shine through the window in the ceiling of the church and light a lamp placed in the tomb. Church lights are switched off and a silence of anticipation descends on the church.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, then lights a few candles with the holy fire, and passes them on to worshippers inside the church.

Seconds after the Orthodox patriarch reveals the Holy Fire, it spreads throughout the church as worshippers light each other’s candles. The fire is then passed on to the worshippers waiting outside.

In past centuries, worshippers were expected to bring the flame back to their villages around Russia and Eastern Europe.

Traditionally, an olive lamp lit by the “Holy Fire” is transferred soon after the ceremony to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

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Categories: Easter, Greek Orthodox Christians, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Holy Fire, Jerusalem, News, Theophilis III

Let us Not Forget That There is Much That Binds Muslims and Jews



After the national debate on Antisemitism, the Labour Party has set up a working group to stamp down on Antisemitism, which is to be warmly welcomed. Antisemitism, like other forms of hatred and prejudice, must be tackled and tackled with vigour.

Yet,there is also a unique nature to Antisemitism that we should acknowledge. We also need to be aware of the deep scar of the Holocaust and the over-riding spiritual, religious and cultural trauma that it has caused and will continue to shape feelings and fears within Jewish communities for well over another hundred years. This must be taken into account and reactions also need to be seen through this lens.

European Jewry was, in a mechanised fashion, virtually wiped off the face of the continent and through that lens, we must always understand and empathise with the gut like reaction to Antisemitic discourse that takes place within Jewish communities. However, this does not mean that the policies of the State of Israel cannot be scrutinised and objected to. The latter is legitimate political discourse and there is no getting away from that fact.

Yet, over the last few days, the wider public may have got the impression that Muslims and Jews are completely at odds with each other over Israel and Palestine. As though it is the only thing that shapes relationships between both communities. This has been the impression that many beyond these two communities have got and the furore over the last two days may have further consolidated these positions. However, this is not the full picture.

Work between Muslim and Jewish communities has yielded much that is positive to both communities and to our country. Let  us be clear. Interfaith, conflict resolution, cohesion and integration work between both communities has meant that investment has been injected into local communities in our country. It has ensured the safety and security of both communities and of wider communities. It has ensured that the United Kingdom is seen as a beacon of hope globally of how communities can and do work together. And it has given strength to both communities to reach out and to take on extremist and bigoted groups, for the safety of these communities and our nation.

Much of this is not talked about or mentioned in the headlines. Much of this is not even recognised, but the reality is that it happens every day and goes without notice, yet we all feel the benefits.

Let us therefore remember that even in the darkest of moments, Jewish and Muslim communities hold a candle of hope for a better future. There are others within and beyond these communities who will try and snuff out that light, but they will not be successful. Nor should we let their voices be the enduring ones in the public space. We simply cannot allow them to shape our collective futures.


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Categories: Antisemitism, Israel, Jeremy Corbyn, Jews, Labour Party, Opinions, Palestine

Muslim leader in India under fire from activists for supporting FGM

Photo Credit: Reuters


The leader of the only South Asian Muslim community known to practise female genital mutilation (FGM) came under criticism on Friday by campaigers who accused him of urging followers to continue the centuries-old custom.

Little is known about FGM in India, where it is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shi’ite Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million that considers the practice to be a religious obligation.

An audio clip of Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin’s speech at a mosque in Mumbai, has been authenticated by several members of the community. According to a transcript, he said: “The act must be done. It needs to be done discreetly when it is a woman, but it needs to be done.”

Calls and e-mails to a spokesman for the Syedna and the leader’s administrative office received no response.

“The speech is a huge disappointment for us,” said Masooma Ranalvi, who was cut as a seven-year-old and leads an online petition as part of the ‘Speak Out on FGM’ campaign, which has drawn almost 50,000 signatories, including Mia Farrow, who tweeted her support on Thursday.

“Ever since we began the campaign, there has been only silence from the clergy. But now that it’s out in the open, at least there’s no ambiguity about where they stand,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A person described as a close friend of the Syedna family told the Times of India newspaper that the remarks were a “general comment” and that people were “interpreting it differently”.


FGM, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems, is more commonly linked to African countries which have led international efforts to end the practice.

India is not included on U.N. lists of countries affected by FGM. Campaigners estimate that up to three quarters of Bohra girls are cut.

Although it is not mentioned in the Koran, the Bohras consider ‘khatna’ – the removal of part of the clitoris – to be part of their religious duty, and debate on the subject has long been taboo.

But the practice among Indian Dawoodi Bohras hit the headlines in November when a court in Australia found two members of the diaspora community guilty of cutting two girls. A Bohra religious leader was convicted of being an accessory.

Since then, more than a dozen Bohra communities in Europe and the United States have passed resolutions against the practice.

“Why should girls in some parts of the world be spared from circumcision, while girls in other countries continue to be cut?” the non-profit group Sahiyo, which aims to end FGM in India, posted on its website on Friday.

“The strongest form of opposition to khatna is now coming from within the community.”

Campaigners will now focus on petitioning the government while still working with the community, said Ranalvi.

“There is hypocrisy in the clergy’s stance, so the government is the most important route open to us now,” she said. “We need them to step in to protect our girls.”

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Categories: Dawoodi Bohra, Female Genital Mutilation, FGM, India, Mumbai, Muslim leader, News, Shia, Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin

Why Ken Livingstone is wrong about Hitler and Zionism



Ken Livingstone’s comments on Hitler and Zionism created a justified outrage. His comments divorce the realities of Hitler’s antisemtism and Nazi violence.

Hitler opposed the creation of a Jewish state in his 1925 autobiography Mein Kampf. Hitler’s antisemitic outlook owes in part to the writings of Henry Ford and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. His commitment to the conspiracy of a Jewish plot to rule the world prevented him from entertaining the idea of a single Jewish state. This became a meaningful way for the Nazis to dehumanize Jewish communities.

Hitler obsession with the racist conspiracy of global Jewish influence germinated in Vienna. This grew in the 1920s when party ideologue Alfred Rosenberg introduced him to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Nazi Party had already published copies of the text in 1919. And by 1939, the party had published at least 23 versions of the text.

So Livingstone’s point that Hitler “was supporting Zionism” is wrong. Nor did Israel exist in 1932. The conflation between Zionism, Israel and Hitler only serves to cause deep upset. Livingstone’s comment also divorces the complexities of Jewish thought in this era. Removed from the historical context of growing antisemitic violence and discrimination, he caricatures Zionism. This caricature suggests that it shares similar genocidal and racist proclivities. And it also infers that Jews were complicit in their own destruction. Not only are the statements antisemitic but devoid of empathy.

It’s possible that Livingstone alluded to The Haavara (Ha’avarah) Agreement of 1933. This plan would allow German Jews to emigrate to Palestine and keep some of the value of their property in Germany. Negotiations proved controversial in many Jewish circles. The Nazis saw this as a means to undermine the solidarity of Jewish boycotts of German goods. It had little to do with a desire to resettle German Jews.

Researching this agreement also brings up a number of racist conspiracy theories. It also, rather bizarrely trended on Twitter for a short time yesterday. Proclivities towards this thinking in some confirms Barkun’s theory of ‘stigmatized knowledge‘. In short, stigmatized knowledge presents information that mainstream institutions have not validated.

The agreement did allow some wealthy German Jews to emigrate. But as Y’faat Weiss noted:

The  agreement  did  not  improve  the  living  conditions  of  the  Jews  left  behind,  and  the  number  of  such  Jews  who  actually  emigrated  to  Israel  indirectly  because  of  the  agreement  is  in  doubt. In  view of the peculiar demographic structure of Polish Jewry, such an agreement could not have met the needs of the Jewish rank and file in this country.”

Nor was the agreement signed until August 25, 1933. Hitler’s rise to power made antisemitic violence a state-sanctioned policy. On March 11, 1933, the SA (Sturm Abteilung) militia attacked Jewish-owned shops. Antisemitic violence erupted nationwide. In that same month, the Nazis had erected Dachau concentration camp. Within its first year alone, the Nazis had incarcerated almost five thousand political enemies.

Nor was Hitler a benign force in this period. He signed the order to murder Fritz Gerlich, editor of the anti-Nazi newspaper, Der Gerade Weg, in Dachau in 1934.

The Enabling Act allowed Hitler to rule by decree. He then called for national boycott of Jewish businesses. When not met with SA violence, Jewish shop owners found their shop windows painted with the Star of David and other slogans.

On April 7, 1933, the Nazis purged German Jews from the civil service. Jewish doctors and dentists could no longer work in public health schemes. Teachers were fired. Lawyers could no longer work for the state. A few weeks later and the Nazis had banned kosher traditions.

The Nazis introduced quota systems to limit education for Jewish children in state schools.

In May of 1933, the Nazis held a series of public book burnings. This included texts written by Jewish authors and political enemies. Months later and Jewish academics were purged from teaching positions at universities.

All this violence and discrimination came before the signing of the Ha’avara agreement on August 25, 1933. The antisemitic climate in Nazi Germany increased with each passing month and year.

The Nazis made clear in in 1937 that a single Jewish state would prove detrimental. A memo from German General Consulate in Palestine said:

The formation of a Jewish state… is not in Germany’s interest because a (Jewish) Palestinian state would create additional national power bases for international Jewry such as for example the Vatican State for political Catholicism or Moscow for the Communists. Therefore, there is a German interest in strengthening the Arabs as a counter weight against such possible power growth of the Jews.”


It’s true that some in the Nazi party did seek to deport Jews out of Europe in 1940. But crucially, as Ken Livingstone forgot to mention, was never adopted as policy. The idea went against the fundamental tenets of Hitler’s antisemitism.

Hitler wanted a genocidal response to what he saw as a global Jewish pursuit of power. He wrote that Jews were “a pestilence, a spiritual pestilence, worse than the Black Death.”

It’s why the Nazis and their collaborators had murdered nearly two out of every three European Jews by 1945.

In his magnum opus Life and Fate, the writer Vasily Grossman understood the varieties of antisemitism:

“Anti-Semitism is also an expression of a lack of talent, an inability to win a contest on equal terms – in science or in commerce, in craftsmanship or painting. States look to the imaginary intrigue of world Jewry for explanations of their own failure.

At the same time anti-Semitism is an expression of the lack of consciousness of the masses, of their inability to understand the true reasons for their sufferings. Ignorant people blame the Jews for their troubles when they should blame the social structure or the State itself. Anti-Semitism is also, of course, a measure of the religious prejudices smouldering in the lower levels of society.”

Ken Livingstone would do well to read Grossman, learn his history and not attack historical memory through the lens of antisemitic falsehoods.


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Categories: Antisemitism, Hilter, Ken Livingstone, Opinions, WW2, Zionism

Mohammed Saleem – Three Years Have Passed Since His Killing


On the 29th of April 2013, a grandfather and family man Mohammed Saleem, was returning back home after prayers at the local mosque. On his way home, he was targeted by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi sympathiser Pavlo Lapshyn, who subsequently killed the harmless grandfather, thereby robbing a family of the precious time they had with him.

Three years have passed to the day since his killing by Lapshyn, who was convicted to a life term and with a minimum sentence of 40 years to be served. Lapshyn had also gone onto place explosive devices in 3 mosques in the West Midlands area with one of the devices spraying nails within the bounds of the Tipton mosque.

We were honoured to have Shazia Khan, (the daughter of the late Mohammed Saleem), to speak at our annual dinner in 2014. Details of her speech can be found here.  A second daughter, Maz Saleem, has gone on to become an anti-racist campaigner and gives talks up and down the country on the need to tackle racism and anti-Muslim prejudice.

Three years have passed since the murder and little is talked about regarding this targeted killing on the streets of Birmingham.

Next time someone says to you that anti-Muslim prejudice is not a reality, do mention the names of Mohammed Saleem and Mushin Ahmed. Their names deserve to be remembered and their families live with the loss every day. May their lives inspire us all to tackle hatred, racism and intolerance with a greater impetus.


The post Mohammed Saleem – Three Years Have Passed Since His Killing appeared first on TELL MAMA.

Categories: anti-Muslim hate, Birmingham, killing, Maz Saleem, Mohammed Saleem, News, Pavlo Lapshyn, Shazia Khan

Pegida Believes that a ‘Parking Jihad’ is Being Waged in Areas


Not to be outdone in waxing lyrical about ‘Jihad’, the extremist far right group Pegida UK, (led by the sadly unreformed agent provocateur Stephen Yaxley Lennon – aka Tommy Robinson), have decided that they will oppose mosques. Clearly someone has failed to inform them that mosques already exist in our country.

However, not to be outdone in the race to target Muslim communities, far right groups like Pegida have joined up with ‘Mosqueblock’ and they have decided that they will provide guidance to members of the public to lodge what can only be assumed to be vexatious complaints against mosque planning applications.

So there we go. Pegida who claimed to fight ‘Islamic extremism’ are in fact, targeting a group of citizens by potentially making it  difficult for them to lodge successful applications for local mosques. We do not want you to pray in mosques is what Pegida is suggesting by these set of actions.

So next time you hear Pegida talking about tackling extremism, just remember this. They believe that one group of people in our country, British Muslim citizens, should be subjected to complaints if they want to develop a mosque to pray in. If anything, this shows what a malevolent group Pegida are.

Parking Jihad


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Categories: mosque, Mosqueblock, News, Parking Jihad, Pegida, planning applications, Tommy Robinson

Such Abuse Against Sadiq Khan is Unacceptable & We Must Collectively Counter It



As we run into the last week of campaigning for the London Mayoral election, it seems that far right extremist groups like Liberty GB and their coterie of haters have decided to play on the Muslim heritage of Labour candidate Sadiq Khan. We have highlighted Liberty GB before and more information can be found here.

We have also highlighted key activists in Liberty GB like Paul Weston. Yet, Liberty GB seems to want to reach the bottom of the league in its campaigning effort and by lacing campaigns with anti-Muslim prejudice and bigotry. The following post on their Facebook page should be parodied, given the abysmal focus on one aspect of the identity of Labour MP and mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan.

Furthermore,  the kinds of abhorrent comments that are posted on the Facebook page of Liberty GB show the kind of audience that is attracted to them. We hope that the British public respond by parodying groups like Liberty GB whose aim seems to attract supporters who generally think the worst of Muslims. The least we all can do is make clear that their messages of prejudice are unacceptable, inflammatory and downright vile. Not so much Liberty GB as the gross abuse of all of our liberties and freedoms.

Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan Liberty GB


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Categories: Far Right groups, News, Paul Weston, Sadiq Khan

Twitter Develops Multiple Reporting of Tweets to Provide Context



Much has been said about social media platforms though we have seen some significant and positive changes in Twitter and Facebook over the last year.

We have seen a real desire to reach out and to listen to organisations working with communities and in areas such as tackling hate incidents and crimes. Both organisations are making changes and supporting counter-speech and this is to be welcomed. Interestingly, changes are taking place on these platforms much more regularly and which take into account feedback by users.

For example, today, we have learnt that Twitter provides this much needed reporting in facility. The facility allows users to report in multiple tweets, thereby providing greater context on the information and actions of perpetrators of abuse. The greater the context, the more information that can be acted on.

Tell MAMA has been working with Twitter in trying to ensure that the context of hateful and abusive messages are taken into account. We are one of a handful of organisations who have made this case and we are very grateful that Twitter has listened and responded. We are starting to see a strong desire from Facebook and Twitter to make relevant and useful changes to tackle abuse and these steps are warmly welcomed. They will help victims of abuse.


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Categories: abuse, free speech, multiple reporting, News, reporting in, social media companies

Romania to speed up Holocaust-era property restitution



Romania is to fast-track claims from Holocaust survivors under an amended law on property restitution which is expected to be passed by parliament next week, legislators said on Tuesday.

Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany during World War Two until it changed sides in August 1944, and much of the property seized during the war was later nationalised under communist rule which followed.

After the collapse of communist rule, Romania passed laws for returning property to the original owners in the 1990s but red tape prevented legislation from having any real effect.

The country used to have a pre-war Jewish population of about 800,000 but now only up to 11,000 Jews live in Romania.

An international commission, in a 2004 report, put the total number of Romanian and Ukrainian Jews who perished in territories under Romanian administration at 280,000 to 380,000 people.

A draft law, published on parliament’s website, said that in processing applications for the return of property priority would be given to “requests by people certified as Holocaust survivors by entities designated by the Romanian state or other European Union states …”

The draft easily cleared the upper house of parliament last week and will go to a final vote next Wednesday in the lower house, legislators said. Politicians expected it to win overwhelming support in the lower house.

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Categories: Holocaust, Jews, News, Reparations, Restitution, Romania

The Banality of Hate – Boycotts Because of a Wrong Strand of Religion


In 1961, Hannah Arendt coined the term ‘the banality of evil‘ whilst covering the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem who repeatedly stated that he was “only following orders.” It was this inability to think beyond orders and directives that led to the mass genocide of people which led her to coin the term. Yet the term can be slightly amended to read as the ‘banality of hatred‘ which underlies evil and it seems to fit the open bigotry which some show to others just because they are different.

There are many traits of human nature that leave much to be desired. Through our work over the last 4 years we have covered a range of topics from anti-Muslim bigotry, through to intra-Muslim bigotry.

Yet, we will keep highlighting how intra-Muslim bigotry and prejudice needs to be tackled as an ongoing concern, (whilst tackling anti-Muslim hatred), if we are to promote the core principle that people in our country should live free from fear and intimidation.

Take for example, this post below which was reported into us today. The post highlights a boycott of alleged Ahmaddiya businesses and was posted on Facebook. The only reason for this boycott is that the shop owners are……wait for it…..a different belief system to the perpetrator posting the call for boycotts. In this instance, the people being discriminated against are Ahmaddiya Muslims.

Now, imagine a boycott being called against Christian or Jewish owned businesses? Rightly we would all be outraged and this would be something of real concern for social justice activists. Yet, here we have the identical thing involving the targeting of a peaceful law-abiding community through boycotts of their businesses on the basis that they are so heretical that they must be punished.

Finally, the following needs to be said. Anti-Muslim hatred or Islamophobia is mainly and predominantly against Muslims, yet we cannot shy away or brush under the carpet such toxic intra-Muslim prejudice. Where we find it, we must call it out and highlight it. For far too long, it has gone unchallenged, and just as we will challenge anti-Muslim bigotry, we will also challenge the banality of hate perpetrated against minority groups within Islam. This also goes hand in hand with challenging all forms of hatred and prejudice.

If anything, the example shown below really does reflect the vacuousness of those who think that they can discriminate against others and broadcast it across the Internet and social media. Hannah’s words still seem to carry a powerful wake up call to us all and to those who care about human rights and the future of integration and cohesion in our country.

Ahmaddiya Boycott


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Categories: Ahmaddiya, Banality of Evil, Boycotts, Hannah Arendt, intra-Muslim, News, prejudice