That, however, was not the main thing which struck me about the day. Simply put, it has become a matter of controversy and a weapon in the attacks on Israel's legitimacy.
Some Muslim groups are either opposing the commemoration of the day or "claiming" it for themselves. The Muslim Council of Britain under the leadership of its chair, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, has been vocally boycotting the event since 2004.
As Gould observes, the Muslim Council argues that it should be Palestinian suffering, not something as "ancient" as the Shoah which should be the object of the UK's attention. What was even more striking was the mantra coming from many Anglo-Muslim leaders that UK Muslims are in the same situation as Jews in Nazi Germany. This is an absolutely absurd comparison. I was glad to hear Brendan O'Neill of Spiked express the same sentiment.
I was struck by an article in the London Times on February 3rd with the headline: ‘We are vilified like Jews by the Nazis, says Muslim leader’, the paper reported that Birmingham’s most senior Muslim leader had compared contemporary political Britain to Nazi Germany. Absurd and distasteful.
Gould goes on to relate what happened in Bolton, a town which decided to cancel Holocaust Day event. It probably is not inconsequential that Bolton has a large Muslim population. Gould observes:
Bolton Interfaith Council, which is made up of Christian, Muslim and Hindu representatives, suggested a different commemoration to include all genocides.
Tony McNeile, secretary of the Interfaith Council, said, "It does not mean bypassing the Holocaust …. It is one of the great tragedies of the world, but it is not the only one."
The Vicar of Bolton, Canon Michael Williams, also on the Interfaith council, said: "The service is a bit artificial because we have never had a Jewish community to support it."
What is so telling is that the Bolton Evening News has been running a blog on the issue. Here are some quotes:
“60 million died in WWII, I refuse to accept that the Jews are more important than any of the others, even though they think they are…”
“Jewish groups however will probably say that this is anti-Semitism, which it isn’t. That is their way of intimidating anyone who is critical…”
“...why should this genocide be more important than the 30,000 Palestinians who have been killed fighting Israel in the last sixty years?..”
In a poll in the Bolton Evening News, the percentage of readers approving of the cancellation of Holocaust Memorial Day is large.