Leave.EU group slammed over tweet 'smearing UK Muslims'

Muslim and Jewish groups denounce Brexit campaign group and demand apology for 'shocking' post on Twitter.

    The statement was posted on Thursday, which marks the one year before the UK leaves the EU [File: EPA]
    The statement was posted on Thursday, which marks the one year before the UK leaves the EU [File: EPA]

    A major group supporting the campaign for the UK to leave the European Union has sparked outrage after posting an "appalling" tweet, which critics denounced as both Islamophobic and anti-Semitic.

    In its Twitter post on Thursday, Leave.EU called out the UK's opposition Labour Party, saying it is "reliant on the votes of Britain's exploding Muslim population", and thus "can't be bothered" to deal with "disgusting" anti-Semitism among its members.

    "It's a question of maths for these people, not justice," the post read, accompanied by an image of a tilted wooden plank, with one end showing a black box with the words "3 million Muslim votes", and the other end a smaller, blue box with the words, "300,000 Jewish votes".

    The words, "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas", were also emblazoned in the lower part of the image.

    The statement was posted online on the day marking 12 months before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, also known as Brexit, on March 29, 2019.

    Leave.EU was widely credited for the 2016 referendum victory of the movement supporting Brexit.

    Immediately after Leave.EU's tweet went online, many took to social media to condemn the campaign group as "overtly racist" and calling for its account to be shut down.

    Others accused it of "promoting anti-Muslim bigotry" and said its post "constitutes hate speech and incitement to racial hatred".

    In a brief comment to Al Jazeera, Nasima Begum, spokesperson of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), called the post "quite shocking".

    Harun Khan, MCB's secretary general, said it is "disgusting and should be deleted with a full and unreserved apology". 

    Dr. Shazad Amin, CEO of Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) in the UK, told Al Jazeera that his organisation is "appalled by this clearly Islamophobic tweet", which is trying to create "division and hatred" in the Muslim and Jewish communities.

    "Islamophobia and anti-Semitism need to be taken seriously and tackled by the whole of society, not used to score cheap and tawdry political points. We hope and expect an apology is forthcoming."  

    The Board of Deputies of British Jews also denounced the online statement as "completely unacceptable", and demanded that it be deleted and for Leave.EU to apologise at once.

    "Some of the best allies we have in the struggle against antisemitism are Muslims," it said, listing London Mayor Sadiq Khan and other groups as supporters.

    "This is not the way to challenge antisemitism."


    The Brexit campaign has long been associated with anti-Muslim sentiments and xenophobia, with groups such as MCB and the hate monitoring group Tell Mama reporting heightened incidents of racism following the June 23, 2016 vote. 

    An investigation by the Press Association also found that, three months after the referendum, hate crimes were at their highest since 2012.

    Damian Green, a member of parliament for the ruling Conservative Party and former first secretary of state of Prime Minister Theresa May, called the Twitter post the "worst kind of dog whistle" and urged his partymates linked with the Leave.EU movement to withdraw their support of the group. 

    Robert Peston, a British journalist and presenter, denounced the post as "appalling beyond words.

    "So the way to combat anti-Semitism is to smear British Muslims in the most disgusting way, and accuse Labour of the most hideous, calculating racism."

    The controversy started when the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, were criticised in recent weeks for the rise of anti-Semitism within the party's ranks, and for its "failures" to respond to the issue decisively.

    In a recent interview with Sky News, Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said Corbyn "swims in a political sea, which is polluted by far too many anti-Semites".

    Arkush said Corbyn "always sides with the anti-Semites, never with anti-racists".

    In an interview with the Times of Israel published on Wednesday, Corbyn said he is "not an anti-Semite in any way, never have been, and never will be".

    Here is how some on social media reacted to Leave.EU's post:

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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