By Nabil Ahmed
From the Guardian
There are more than 110,000 Jewish and Muslim students in Britain, but it’s not often their shared experiences are considered. Globally, Muslim-Jewish relations are a touchy topic, with the focus on political divisions (such as Palestine-Israel), and an assumption of historical enmity. I have felt this cold, polarising air from both communities, whose leaders seem unwilling to address it.
But born and raised in Alwoodley, Leeds, I grew up with more Jewish than Muslim friends, and realised our startling similarities. The National Jewish Student Survey in 2011 showed the day-to-day issues facing Jewish students. In the main these concerned passing exams and finding a job, but Judaism also played a strong role in encouraging them to support and give to ethical causes. Two out of five had experienced an antisemitic incident in the last year, although just 4% were “very worried” about antisemitism at university.
The Greater London Authority research into the experiences of Muslim students in 2009 suggested a similar experience, both of Islamophobia and of getting the best out of life on campus. Muslim students are engaging in social activism and are concerned about welfare needs, but have the same day-to-day concerns as other students. In summary, young Muslims and Jews want to enjoy their university years, get good jobs and make a difference.
But in 2012, there are troubled waters ahead. Internationally there is the threat of a war with Iran, which could stoke inter-community tensions – and antisemitism and Islamophobia have not gone away. January saw a vile Nazi-themed drinking game, on a ski trip organised by the LSE athletics union, which was rightly condemned. Also at LSE there was the Islamophobic harassment of a Muslim student after religious sensitivities were provoked by the Atheist Secular and Humanist Society and in Stoke – a place where Muslim students have been harassed by the BNP – an ex-soldier, Simon Beech, was recently convicted of setting fire to a mosque.