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‘Who Are the Extremists Who Would Tear Us Apart?’

Mustafa Al-Dabbagh argues that it is the Government, not those calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, which is using extremist and divisive rhetoric

Pro-Palestine protestors gather in Westminster demanding immediate aid to Gaza and calling on Rishi Sunak to resign as the Israel-Hamas war continues. Photo: Vuk Valcic/Alamy

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For the past five months much has been said about our movement, which has consistently called for a ceasefire and an end to the genocide in Gaza. As British citizens of faith or none, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jews, sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors, school children, university students, NHS staff and many more have been maligned as hate marchers, mobs, thugs, and even “Islamists” allegedly subverting democracy.

It’s time to set the record straight.

Our cause is straightforward: we stand against the ongoing genocide in Gaza, where 30,000 Palestinians, a third of them children, have been killed. These are the findings of the International Court of Justice, which ruled that there is a plausible case of genocide for Israel to answer.

Our demands are simple: an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, facilitation of basic needs to prevent mass man-induced starvation, and the complete lifting of the 17-year siege on Gaza.

We also call for an end to the illegal occupation of Palestine and accountability for those responsible for heinous crimes against humanity.

These demands resonate with the majority of the British public, as highlighted by a recent YouGov poll which found that 66% of the public surveyed supported an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Listening to Rishi Sunak deliver his speech on Friday, one would think there had been an outbreak of anarchy, chaos and unruliness hitting the streets of the UK. However, the Metropolitan Police acknowledged that our protests have been orderly, disciplined, well-organised, and professionally handled.

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Despite dozens of protests involving an estimated three million participants during the past five months, only a very small number of people have been charged. It’s not exactly what you would expect if Jihadi-supporting anarchists were storming London every weekend.

But the Government and the Labour Party appear to be overlooking these facts and dismissing the concerns of ordinary citizens who have come out in solidarity with the Palestinians. Instead, there seems to be a crackdown on public protests, freedom of speech, congregation, and political dissent.

The Prime Minister’s use of fear, scaremongering, and dog-whistle Islamophobia to vilify protestors is not only outrageous, but indicative of a concerning disregard for political differences.

While Sunak urges the country to “face down the extremists who would tear us apart”, the irony lies in this Government’s failure to address divisive rhetoric within its own ranks.

This most recently included comments by the Conservative former Deputy Chair Lee Anderson, who claimed that theLondon Mayor Sadiq Khan is controlled by his “Islamist” friend. And when former Home Secretary Suella Braverman wrote in the Telegraph that “the Islamists, the extremists, and the antisemites are in charge now”.

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in the US, Nigel Farage — alongside former Prime Minister Liz Truss — claimed that “radical Islam is becoming mainstream in British politics” and projected that “by the 2029 general election, we will have a radical Islamic party represented in Westminster”. Sunak had nothing to say of Truss’ appearance at the event.

All of these examples raise questions about the Government’s commitment to unity.


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Sunak’s attempt to deflect the real issues behind public discontent is evident. Our marches include people who feel let down in various aspects of life, not just those calling for justice in Palestine. Concerns about inadequate healthcare, unaffordable housing, the climate emergency, political corruption, and wealth inequality coexist with our collective call for justice.

This Government, while claiming to champion democracy, is paradoxically eroding the very rights we stand up for – humanity, justice, international law, and a rules-based world order.

The Conservatives have undermined democracy by introducing mandatory voter ID, criminalising protests, eroding the independence of the Electoral Commission, planning to curb the power of the courts, and by prioritising the controversial Rwanda scheme that has been ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

In the face of this, we must ask: who truly defends democracy?

Is it the millions who have peacefully attended our protests to advocate for an end to genocide and dignity for the Palestinian people? Or is it unelected Rishi Sunak and his allies, seemingly embarking on a scorched earth policy against our civil liberties?

Historian Timothy Snyder wrote in On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century that we must be wary of the term “extremism” when used by those in power as it often serves to stifle dissent and label anyone outside of the mainstream as a threat.

After what our Prime Minister told the nation outside Downing Street on Friday, it should make us think: who are the extremists and why do they want to silence our collective voices?

Mustafa Al-Dabbagh is a media and politics spokesperson at the Muslim Association of Britain

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