MPAC and Holocaust Memorial Day

January 28, 2007 at 10:25 am (Uncategorized)

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI was flicking through the MPAC UK website today – something I do every now and then, largely as a hangover from when as an undergraduate I used to regularly object to the National Union of Students ban on that organisation. I’d always found MPAC a fairly weird bunch, and sometimes what they said wasn’t the nicest to hear, but being weird and unpleasant just didn’t strike me as grounds for banning someone from a national organisation like NUS.

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know (and there can’t be that many of you), MPAC stands for “Muslim Public Affairs Committee”, although rather like many self-appointed community representative organisations, the grandiose title doesn’t quite match the organisation itself. It’s in the habit of issuing ranting proclamations on various subjects, which apparently UK Muslims are then supposed to take as guides to action. Some of the on-the-button bulletins in the past year, have included a roar of righteous indignation at Blairite minister Phil Woolas for using the word “crap” to describe the anonymous author’s views expressed at a meeting. I’d hazard a guess that the author in question is MPAC front man Asghar Bukhari. He’s the guy who gave money to David Irving once upon a time, albeit that he claims not to have known that Irving was a Holocaust denier. More recently, we have a mixture of news/opinion articles with a heavy slant on how if you stand up for the human rights of Palestininans, “The Zionists” will call you anti-semitic. And of course an article telling people that they need to prepare for the “student jihad” by getting elected to this year’s NUS conference, by which “jihad” MPAC presumably means voting to end the ban on MPAC. So, nothing remotely wacky about this organisation, as you can see. Which neatly brings me on to my main point.

On the same site is an audiocast about Holocaust Memorial Day. I was in two minds about whether to bother listening to it, but eventually decided to do so, if only to find out whether MPAC would repeat the tired old MCB line about how they weren’t attending because genocides happen to many peoples, this shouldn’t be exclusive to one event, etc. Or indeed, given MPAC’s predeliction for hysterical theatrics as outlined above, possibly worse. In fact, this is what I was expecting to hear. But for 75% of the audiocast, I was pleasantly surprised.

The recording takes the form of an interview by a young man, of a young Muslim woman (and presumably MPAC supporter), who has recently been to Auschwitz. She recounts the horrors that she saw, and gives a good idea of the sheer scale of that particular camp’s part in the genocide. She does this by summing up her own journey around the camp, and also by adding facts that give an idea of the magnitiude of what happened there; her description of the thousands of kilos of human hair found at the camp when it was finally taken by Allied troops at the end of World War Two is particularly horrifying and poignant. She also makes clear that she regards the Holocaust as both true in historical fact and staggering in its magnitude, and the the interviewer does not dissent from this.

By this point I was pretty impressed. But then came the downer.

Asked to describe MPAC’s position on Holocaust Memorial Day in light of her journey, the woman reverts to that same tired formula that I was expecting in the first place. MPAC will not be attending the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony, because it’s exclusive, many peoples have been subject to genocides, the Palestinians in particular have suffered… all the usual lines that whilst true and and of themselves, don’t actually add up to a reason for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day. In other words, she just doesn’t get that attending Holocaust Memorial Day in no way precludes other memorials being set up for other genocides. She and MPAC also don’t get that the Armenian community in the UK, who also represent a people who have suffered genocide, have never opposed having a day specifically to commemorate the Holocaust. She also doesn’t get just how obnoxious (and for that matter counter-productive) it is therefore, for organisations such as MPAC to make nasty little gestures like this boycott of the commemoration of those who died in one of the most tragic genocides in human history.

To sum it up, MPAC just doesn’t get it. Disappointing, but not surprising.

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