Asghar Bukhari, a founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, has spoken out to defend the former Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, over an antisemitic speech he gave.
During an interview with Mehdi Hasan, Mahathir Mohamad was questioned over his 2012 speech to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in which he claimed that “The Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them”. The heads of state of 56 other nations present gave him a standing ovation for the speech and afterwards he wrote that he was “glad to be labelled as antisemitic” and described sympathy with Jewish victims of the Holocaust as “wasted and misplaced”.
Astonishingly, Bukhari defended the comments and attacked the interviewer, bizarrely asserting in a blog post that the “whole argument revolved around the…use of the word Jew”, which he contended could either be used positively or negatively.
This is a brazen attempt to deflect from the true nature of Mohamad’s comments.
Saying that sympathy for victims of the Holocaust is “wasted and misplaced” is not a disagreement over the usage of the word “Jew”, but is a shameless attempt to delegitimise the irrefutable historical facts of the Holocaust and to dehumanise its victims. Indeed, when read alongside statements, which he refused to retract in the interview, that Jews “rule the world by proxy”, such a comment could easily be taken as him expressing the view that the Holocaust was somehow justified. Yet Ashgar Bukhari says that it is “wrong to call the Former Prime Minister of Malaysia antisemitic” even though Mohamad himself clearly relishes the label.
Similarly, claims that Jews control world affairs are antisemitic according to the International Definition of Antisemitism which states that it is antisemitic to make “mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective”. The claim that Jews “get others to fight and die for them” is particularly pernicious, and borders on blood libel, as well as suggesting a belief that Jews cause many of the world’s wars, a belief that research found to be held by 26% of British Muslims.
Bukhari has been no stranger to antisemitism. In 2006, he was forced to repudiate David Irving, the British Holocaust denier, to whom he had sent £6000, which he claims he did under the belief that he was merely an “anti-Zionist” who had been smeared as something much worse. He also famously accused Mossad of breaking into his house and stealing one of his shoes and claimed that “any Muslim who fights and dies against Israel and dies is a martyr and will be granted paradise”. Despite this, he has been allowed to speak for British Muslims on numerous occasions, both in his capacity as a founder of MPAC UK and independently, including appearances on BBC News, The James O’Brien Show, LBC, Sky News and The Big Questions.
In 2015, Bukhari announced that he was leaving the UK because nobody would donate to his organisation.