Harris Bokhari attends Countering extremism speech: Politicians part of the problem, says Javid

Home secretary Sajid Javid

Original article published on 19th July 2019

HOME secretary Sajid Javid this morning (19) announced his department would start work on a new Counter Extremism Strategy as he admitted that politicians were part of the problem of rising extremist views.

Javid, who was shunned from the state dinner during US president Donald Trump’ visit to the UK last month, also condemned the American leader’s “go back home” remarks, targeted at four non-white Congresswomen, while stopping short of calling those statements racist.

“I will call out extremism wherever I see it,” Javid said in a speech in south London. “We all have a role to play in stopping any normalisation or legitimisation of these views.”

Britain’s first Asian to hold one of the great offices of state, Javid is the son of immigrant Pakistanis. He recalled changing his school route in order to avoid name calling by National Front members and said his mother frequently scrubbed away the P word scribbled on the exterior walls of their family shop.

“I was told to go back to where I came from” as a child, the home secretary said in his speech on countering extremism.

Politicians, too, were part of the problem, he added.

“Around the world populism, prejudice – and even open racism – have catapulted extremists into power,” he said. “I’m proud to say this has not happened in mainstream politics here.

“Thankfully, our politics has not gone down the same road as much of Europe and the US.

“But we must act now, to avoid sliding into the barely masked racism of nationalism.”

Sajid Javid condemned Donald Trump’s “go back home” remarks.

Noting that everyone was at risk of extremism, the home secretary urged a national conversation about it, and added that “cultural sensitivities must not stop us calling out extremism”.

New findings by the Commission for Countering Extremism have shown that more than half (52 per cent) of respondents surveyed have witnessed extremism. Of these almost half (45 per cent) said they’d seen it online and two-fifths (39 per cent) said they’d seen it in their local area.

Javid also announced amended guidance for companies or organisations that sponsor migrant workers.

“This will allow us to refuse or revoke a sponsor licence where an organisation behaves in a way that is inconsistent with British values, or that’s detrimental to the public good,” he said.

The home secretary stressed the need for a more integrated society and added that he would seek more funds to help those who do not speak English learn the language.

And moving away from the more hardline stance of some in his party, especially that of prime minister Theresa May when she was home secretary, Javid said: “I understand there are some concerns about immigration. Some worry that new arrivals will take over their communities – that our national identity will be diluted. I firmly reject that.

“I’ve seen how immigration can enrich our country and I welcome it.

“But if people from different backgrounds are living separate lives in modern ghettos then it’s no good for anyone.

“We must confront the myths about immigration that extremists use to drive divisions.

“We know that they use immigration as a proxy for race. Sweeping plans to cut immigration as if it’s automatically bad can add to the stigma.”

He added: “Only by talking about this can we show how much integration enriches our communities.

“An integrated society is a strong one.

“This multi-layered approach will help us tackle extremism.

“This is not just a job for the Government alone. But we will lead from the front.

“It takes the whole of society to challenge these vile views.”

Javid, who is supporting Boris Johnson to be the next prime minister has previously said politicians must be more responsible in their choice of language – referring to the Tory frontrunner’s comments likening women in full face veils to letterboxes.

This morning he said: “I have known Boris to be a passionate anti-racist.”

Harris Bokhari, a grassroots expert in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), welcomed Javid’s speech. He said: “It is important the home secretary highlighted the growth of far-right extremism and how this fuels other forms of hate in our society, only working together, each playing our part, can we root out hate from our communities.”

Christchurch mosque victims gifted more than $1.1 million by International Jewish community

Imam Gamal Fouda at Al Noor mosque (left), and Anwar Ghani from Fianz (right) explain what happened on March 15th to Stephen Goodman and Vic Alhadeff (centre)


In an exceptional move of inter-faith solidarity in New Zealand, the Jewish community has led a fund-raising drive to help the Muslim community, following the horrific terrorist attacks in Christchurch in March.

The attack on two mosques killed 49 people, and left bereaving and heart-broken families. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern described it as one of her country’s “darkest days”.

This positive and generous gesture saw $1.1 million raised by the Jewish communities of New Zealand, Australia and America. This New Zealand Abrahamic fund was officially gifted to the victims of the Christchurch Mosque attacks via The Christchurch Foundation on Wednesday (17 July). A ceremony took place where the money was symbolically handed over to Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.

The money was raised not only from the New Zealand Jewish community, but also Jewish communities in New South Wales and the US, including Pittsburgh, where the community suffered a terrorist attack last October.

(L to R) Stephen Goodman, Anwar Ghani, Ibrar Sheikh and Asher Levi at the synagogue

The Fund will distribute grants to the Muslim community, and this will be decided by guidance from both the Muslim and Jewish communities. Party of the money will go to inter-faith activities. Both the Jewish and Muslim communities, globally, have been victims of terror at the hands of white supremacists, and the donation is an act of solidarity and friendship.

Ibrar Sheikh from the Federation of Islamic Associations NZ (FIANZ) said: “The Jewish and Muslim community in New Zealand already have a long history of collaboration, but this wider gift of support from the global community is very gratefully received. The events of 15th March have had a deep and lasting impact on the Muslim community in New Zealand, and indeed the people of Aotearoa as a whole. To know that our Jewish brothers and sisters understand what we have gone through, and are still going through, and are there to help us in our recovery is very important to us.”

(L to right) front Vic Alhadeff, Liane Daziel, Stephen Goodman, Paul Deavoll, back Ibrar Sheikh, Anwar Ghani, Shagaf Khan, and Mohammed Jama

Stephen Goodman of the New Zealand Jewish Council added: “The Jewish community, both in New Zealand and overseas, wanted the victims of the mosque attacks to know that we see them, we empathise with them, and we support them.”

London-based Zaki Cooper from the Commonwealth Jewish Council said: “We are proud of the New Zealand Jewish community initiating this fantastic donation as an act of solidarity with the Muslim community in New Zealand. As Muslims and Jews, we have so much in common and in our ongoing efforts to strengthen relations, we must value our commonalities whilst acknowledging our differences. That’s what good friendship is about. The generosity of spirit exemplified by the New Zealand Abrahamic fund should radiate outwards and inspire communities all over the world.”

Harris Bokhari attends Gordon Brown lecture: Labour needs to overhaul antisemitism strategy

Original article published on 15th July 2019

FORMER British prime minister Gordon Brown has called for a radical overhaul in methods to combat racism, particularly within the Labour Party, proposing a raft of tough new measures to tackle antisemitism.

The 17th Annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture, delivered to over 500 people in London, was a marquee event, with leaders from across various sectors and industries present.

Zaki Cooper, who organised the lecture, said: “Mr Brown made us all think deeply about the big issues facing us today. He particularly spoke about the value of empathy, which of course is important in all human relationships and inter-faith. We were delighted to welcome a number of leaders from other faiths to our beautiful synagogue, as well as several other distinguished guests.”

In his remarks at Hampstead Synoague, Brown also highlighted the rise in attacks on Muslims and Islamophobia, saying: “Racist poison is not restricted to antisemitism. It includes the efforts of Islamophobes who are using social media to condemn the entire Muslim community — demonstrating the still-widespread racism that disfigures more and more of our society.“

Harris Bokhari, co founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation, was the the only Muslim leader to join a private reception with Brown. The reception was attended by leading members of the Jewish community, including the Israeli ambassador, president of the Board of Deputies and politicians including the shadow Brexit Secretary of State Sir Keir Starmer.

Bokhari, a leading Muslim voice in the fight against antisemitism said: “It was a honour to be invited to attend such an important speech by Gordon Brown and it is crucial we continue stand shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish brothers and sisters, as together, united as two communities, we send out a strong message of unity to all those promoters of hate, that antisemitism and Islamophobia will not be accepted.”

School children visit NZ High Commissioner in London, offer condolences over Christchurch attacks

By Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON: British Muslims led by Imam Mohamed Mahmoud including dozens of school children from all faiths paid a visit to the New Zealand High Commissioner to give their condolences in the aftermath of the Christchurch terrorist attacks last month.

The visit included a minute silence, presentations of flowers and the reading of the names of all the young people who were killed in the mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch. The attack, which sent shockwaves throughout the Muslim world, brought widespread condemnation from a variety of UK faith and political leaders.

After a private meeting with the New Zealand High Commissioner Imam Mahmoud said, “After visiting the victims and survivors of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I was overcome by the dignity and patience with which they conducted themselves in the aftermath. I was also impressed with the manner in which the New Zealand government and officials responded – deciding to further embrace their Muslim community and not letting division and hatred win.”

The visit organised by Naz Legacy Foundation follows from their interfaith faith event with the Chief Rabbi and the Archbishop of Canterbury held at the Regent Park Mosque’s Islamic Cultural Centre two days after the attack. They were joined by over 250 leading faith and civil society leaders as well the Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Communities Secretary James Brokenshire who both reiterated the government’s support for the British Muslim community, and security funding for mosques across the country.

Speaking to The News, Harris Bokhari the organiser of the visit and event said that the memorial served as a “message to the terrorist who sought to sow division in society and spread fear that he has failed; as that which unites us is far greater than what divides.”

This vigil and event was not the first of its kind orchestrated by Bokhari who is one of UK’s leading grassroots experts in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). He has in the past brought together politicians and faith leaders to unite British communities after attacks, most notably Nick Clegg the then Deputy Prime Minister in 2013 following the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

Bokhari organised the Woolwich interfaith event following the attack with the former Deputy Prime Minister, who cited verse 32 chapter fice the Koran, which says, “If anyone kills a human being it shall be as though he killed all mankind whereas if anyone saves a life it shall be as though he saved the whole of mankind.”

Bokhari’s efforts in CVE were recognised by the US Embassy in 2017, in which he was one of only seven people and only British born Muslim, including Home Office officials and de-radicalism experts, selected to attend their International Visitor Leadership Programme on CVE.

Bokhari said, “It is important each one of us take an active role, in bringing together our communities, speak and act out against the hate and highlight that we have more in common.”

Hate crime and religious persecution are on the rise – this is how we can stop it

It is only when people of different faiths, or of no faith, and from different backgrounds work together that we can truly overcome the prejudices arising from not knowing the “other”

Original published on 22nd March 2019

There has never been a more important time to actively understand the “other” – to realise that we have to come together as a country of different communities to move forward together post-Brexit. One of many things the Brexit vote did was show us the clear divides we have in our country, in part fuelled by not knowing those who we perceived as different to us. Alarmingly, the recent increase of hate crime is a clear indicator that tensions are rising.

In 2015, I was honoured to be the only UK-born Muslim to attend a four-day residential course which brought together some of the leading experts in faith communities from across the globe, to discuss ways we would could tackle the growing threat of extremism in faith. There were contributions from some of the leading national and international faith leaders, including a video contribution from HRH The Prince of Wales.

Aside from this being a unique opportunity for us to spend time on spiritual reflection, it also gave us a chance to hear about the personal journey of other people. These journeys haven’t been easy and have involved questioning our own conscious and unconscious prejudices. For me that meant owning my own mistakes of the past and making sure I took positive steps to make sure that I never repeat them. 

Some of the most powerful testimonies we heard were from minority Christians who were being persecuted in Muslim majority countries. One Christian leader said he had to teach his congregation the Shahada – the declaration of faith for Muslims – to stop them being killed by local extremists. We see far too regularly how often minority faith communities are being persecuted for their beliefs – such as Christians, Yazidis and Ahmadiyya community in Muslim majority communities – often resulting in exile. This is one reason why it is so important that Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian who spent eight years on death row for blasphemy, is given asylum in the UK.

The sharing of these stories, acknowledging mistakes of the past and championing victims’ rights to be heard widely, helps ensure that we do not tolerate hate crime against minority faith communities here in Britain. We have seen the rise of both antisemitism and Islamophobia across society – a trend we must come to together to stop and fight.

The Naz Legacy Foundation’s annual Youth Interfaith Iftars have brought together over 300 hundred young people from all faiths and helped them to challenge their own conscious and unconscious prejudices of not knowing the “other”. The Iftars have had the support of faith leaders like Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Nichols, Chief Rabbi and Bishop of London and have taken place in such venues as Lambeth Palace, Archbishop’s House and St John’s Wood Synagogue.

Furthermore, encouragingly, a recent study by the Foundation has shown an increased awareness among young people of no faith of hate crime against people of faith – and a desire to tackle this. Such awareness will surely lead to them towards championing minority rights.

It is only when people of different faiths, or of no faith, and from different backgrounds work together that we can truly overcome the prejudices arising from not knowing the “other”.  

I am confident that, despite the challenges ahead in a post-Brexit Britain, our values in celebrating our diversity will win. The divides highlighted by the referendum will strengthen our resolve to work harder to join together as one nation and form the way our country will be viewed globally. It is how we embrace our minority communities, how we champion the “other” and how we fight for the rights of minorities all over the world that will redefine Britain’s place on the global stage.

Londoners: be allies to your neighbours at risk of terror

Original article published on 18th March 2019

It was yet another senseless, horrific terrorist attack on a community who had simply come together in peaceful worship. In New Zealand’s most devastating mass shootings, 50 people died at two mosques in Christchurch and many others were seriously injured.

Just like the butchering of innocent worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the attack on the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, these were innocent men, women and children mown down for simply being who they are. We have seen outpourings of comfort and love around the world. In London people attended vigils or visited their local mosques.

Today, in a welcome show of solidarity, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi were joining the Mayor of London at a multi-faith remembrance and prayer event for the victims at a London mosque, bringing together young people from all backgrounds.

These messages of support, comfort and love are powerful but they are not enough. We need, as Londoners, to be doing more to build stronger, safer, more inclusive communities where intolerance and hatred have less space and opportunity to fester. Religious hate crime has rocketed 40 per cent in a year in England and Wales, as the number of offences hits a record high. Home Office statistics showed over half of religiously motivated attacks in 2017/18 were directed at Muslims, with Jewish people the next most commonly targeted.

We know too that there is still intolerance towards women, black and ethnic minority people, LGBT+ people, the disabled, and even, shockingly, those who are simply older. As members of the Mayor’s new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, and as Jew and Muslim in particular, we are urging every Londoner to consider how better to bridge divides. Everyone can play their part. We must all be architects of peace, compassion and understanding; in our homes, work and communities.

Faith-based groups have been fostering community cohesion and championing diversity and mutual respect for some time. Research from Mitzvah Day (a day of Jewish-led, inclusive social action) shows 74 per cent of people felt they were able to meet others they might not normally have met. Similarly, 64 per cent of young people who attended the Naz Legacy Foundation Iftars went on to bring others to interfaith events. Other activities include the Big Iftar, Visit My Mosque and Sadaqah Day. Organisations such as Faiths Forum for London, Nisa-Nashim and others are all working to bring people together.

Now is the time to explore how you can be an ally, how you can show those who are concerned for their safety that they are not alone. Standing up when someone is being verbally abused rather than studiously looking at our phones is one way. Visiting a faith institution and learning more about each other is another. There is no simple solution, but by working together, by building mutual trust, we can demonstrate terror will never divide us and unity and hope will always prevail over fear and hatred.

Harris Bokhari invited to attend United States IVLP Countering Violent Extremism

Harris Bokhari was just one of seven experts, and one of only two Muslims from the UK invited by the United States Department of State to attend their premier International Visitor Leadership Program about “Community Partnership to Counter Violent Extremism, from September 3 – 23rd 2017.

Watch some highlights from the program: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-tR0kLXlIM