British MPs to defuse Muslim-Jewish campus tensions

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

London : A group of British MPs began a tour of some of Britain’s biggest universities Monday to promote better relations between Muslim and Jewish students.

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The tour is part of a campaign by the Coexistence Trust, which brings together Jewish and Muslim politicians in Britain, to address campus tensions flowing from the Middle East conflict.

The conflict has led to Jewish and Muslim students in Britain leaving hostile messages on internet sites, putting up inflammatory posters on campuses and Muslim youth joining extremist groups.

Hostilities are reported to have intensified during the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, when police were alerted.

The MPs, who will tour the London School of Economics (LSE) and the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham and Leeds, will be led by Lord Parry Mitchell of the ruling Labour party and shadow minister for community cohesion Baroness Sayeeda Warsi of the opposition Conservative party.

“People are apprehensive about certain universities,” Mitchell said Monday before kicking off the tour with the LSE.

“The hostility that my [Jewish] grandfather faced when he came to this country and what many Muslims face today… it’s the same old story.

“In addition to promoting positive relations between young Muslims and Jews in British universities, we hope the tour will address the aspirations of Muslim and Jewish students as they integrate into society; their values and life-goals,” he added.

Participants in the tour also include Indian-born peer Lord Khalid Hameed, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Baroness Haleh Afshar, Baroness Ruth Deech, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, former home minister Michael Howard, Lord Greville Janner and Khalid Mahmood.

Falkner, Pakistani-origin member of the Liberal Democrats party, said the tour was “long overdue”.

“Jewish and Muslim people work together in all walks of life, yet we seem to live apart. This tour will finally give us an opportunity to get beneath the skin and to talk of all the things that bring us together in this country and where we might make common cause. It’s long overdue,” she said.