Anti-Semitism - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:44 pm on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State 1:44 pm, 20th June 2019

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, talked about the importance of the evidence base and statistics. It is shocking when we see the challenges that we face here in 2019. Again, those underline the importance of acting together.

Reference was also made to the new Holocaust memorial. I am delighted, honoured and proud, as I think we should all be, that the UK is leading in this respect. The additional £25 million in government funding will go a great way towards it. I say to my noble friend Lord Shinkwin that one thing which has struck me—I am sure this will touch the hearts of many, including the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, who referenced it—is that as we see those Holocaust survivors pass on, would it not be incredible if those survivors were the ones laying the first bricks as we break ground on that site? This is one area I am looking at, including in my most recent discussions with the Chief Rabbi. I hope noble Lords will agree that we should work together in pursuit of that aim.

There is much I could say but in the limited time I have, I wish to thank again every noble Lord who has taken part in this extremely important debate. As our Prime Minister, Mrs May, said in May, through that Holocaust memorial we must,

“ensure that every generation understands the responsibility that we all share—to fight against hatred and prejudice in all its forms, wherever it is found”.

In the words of the revered and respected Rabbi Hillel, who said in the Babylonian Talmud 2,000 years ago:

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary”.

We have reflected on these words, which stay true to this day.

The next Holocaust Memorial Day marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the genocide of the Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica. Only yesterday, I returned from Sarajevo, the capital of a country which is building from its past. I was very heartened by the interreligious council that I met there. There were Muslim and Christian representatives, including Orthodox and Catholic representatives. But the chairman of that council is Jewish and this showed how, in a country that only 20-odd years ago was torn apart by conflict, faith communities and faith leaders are coming together collectively to address the issues, including the priority of bringing justice to the victims of sexual violence in conflict.

I have never felt that faith is to blame. In all faiths and beliefs, collectively, lies the answer; that is what brings us together today. Perhaps I may end with the wise words of my mother, which define my own ideology thus. One day when I returned, as a Muslim attending a Christian school, from learning about Judaism, she said very sweetly to me: “Tariq, there is no confusion. When we build, we build with the foundations and the foundations of our faith are Judaism. After those foundations, the walls of Christianity were erected and after that, the roof of Islam completed the house of Abraham. The other windows and doors represent other faiths and beliefs, which together constitute the house of God”.