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.”

London Jewish community hosts Iftar for Muslims World

By Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON: A synagogue in the heart of a diverse East London borough opened its doors to Muslims to break their fast with Jews and members of others faiths including Sikhs, Christians and others.

This  was the first ever Iftar dinner arranged by Woodford United Synagogue, attended by leading local and national Jewish leadership who served food for local Muslims. 

The event included workshops on tackling hate crime, opportunities for local residents to get to know each other and speeches from members of the local community. There was also a delicious meal to break the fast under one roof. At the end of the event guests were encouraged to consider how they could continue to promote tolerance and partnership across their community.

Rabbi Wollenberg, who organised the event with his family said: “The event was a huge success, with Muslims and Jews coming together to learn about each other’s faiths and perspectives. For many Muslims, it was their first time in a Synagogue and for many of the Jewish guests it was their first time at an iftar!”

There were also talks from a range of speakers, including Dr Mohammed Fahim, Head Iman at South Woodford Mosque and Susan Pollack MBE – an Auschwitz survivor who has gone on to campaign for solidarity between people of different faiths. 

Also speaking at the event was Khatira Kazemi, a 15-year-old local resident who is a member of Redbridge’s Youth Council. Her message was that the only way to break down barriers is to work together and get to know one another.

Harris Bokhari, co founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation and organiser of the first inter faith Iftari with the Chief Rabbi at St John’s Wood synagogue, which resulted in a number of synagogues across London hosting their own Iftaris appreciated the synagogue for arranging their Iftar said its important for Muslims and Jews to work together to deal with common challenges. 

Harris Bokhari said that “the same extreme elements of society who are promoting anti-Semitism in the UK are the same elements who are also Islamophobic. We need to call out all forms of prejudice and racism in society and it is important we speak out against anti-Semitism in the same way we have to speak out against Islamophobia”.

Bokhari, who is one the leading British Muslim voices in the fight against anti-Semitism, has brought British Muslim and Jewish communities together over the last 20 years, organising many of his recent events with the Chief Rabbi of the UK including the historic St Paul’s Cathedral iftar earlier this Ramazan.

Bokhari added “we have to speak out against the anti-Semitism in the Muslim communities and Islamophobia in the Jewish communities, as well as educating society as a whole against these forms of hate. Ramazan is the prefect time to bring our different faith and non faith communities together to show we have more in common and speak out against hate of all kinds.”

Official data from the Home Office has shown a surge in hate crime directed at people in England and Wales because of their religious beliefs. With over 50% of these religious hate crimes aimed at Muslims.

This is also the third successive year with a record number of anti-Semitimic incidents reported by the Community Security Trust, which has monitored anti-Semitism for 35 years and provides security to the UK Jewish community.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says opportunities exist for Pakistan despite challenges

By Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON: London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Friday that Pakistan faces major challenges like many other Islamic countries, but there are opportunities and hopes of improvement and progress through correct policies. 

In an interview with Geo here at the St Pauls’ Cathedral, London Mayor Sadiq Khan commented that the month of Ramzan teaches compassion and charity for others and this message can be utilised to alleviate common people who face hardships. 

One of the world’s most iconic places of worship, St Pauls’ Cathedral hosted its first ever iftar for Muslims and also invited members of other faiths to open fast with Muslims. The Naz Legacy Foundation together with St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London Corporation had organised the interfaith iftar. 

The Bishop of London Rt Rev Sarah Mullally welcomed the guests. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said when he was fasting in his youth days, his friends used to ask him how he could survive without drinking water but now greater awareness exists about Ramzan. He said: “We should redouble our efforts in Ramzan to make sure we end inequalities. It’s important we remain optimistic.”

He added: “There is no place like London in this world. It’s the city that got a Muslim elected as its mayor. It brings together everyone irrespective of their creed, colour and ideology. The iftar at this iconic place is a demonstration of London’s togetherness and greatness. I am proud that we are celebrating our diversity.” 

For the past four years, Harris Bokhari, co-founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation, has used his close friendships with some of the UK’s leading faith leaders, including the Church of England, to organise ground breaking iftars in the some of the most important places of worship in London; including Lambeth Palace, Archbishop’s House and St John Wood’s Synagogue. 

The Bishop of London said: “What this has demonstrated is that everyone is welcome – people of all faiths and no faith – because that’s London. There is no more important time than now for people of all backgrounds to come together to rejoice at what we have in common, but also celebrate our differences. It is the powerful combination of diversity and unity that helps us thrive and benefit one another.”

The Bishop of London and London Mayor Sadiq Khan both gave speeches at the event and afterwards met young people to hear the challenges they are facing in London and how they think their political and faith leaders can tackle these problems. After opening fast with dates and water under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, the young people, together with members of the City of London Corporation shared a meal together at the Guildhall. 

Speaking to Geo News, Bokhari said: “Sharing food together is one of the greatest ways to bring people of different backgrounds together. From a young age I have always enjoyed kosher salt beef sandwiches and latkes from Blooms or Reubens, iconic London eateries, and more recently the mouthwatering vegetarian food from Shayonas, Neasden Temple. Bringing young people of different faiths together to share iftar together this Ramadan again shows the beauty of food, and the role it plays in bringing our diverse communities together.”

Following the initial celebration in St Paul’s, the group moved to join the Chief Rabbi and enjoyed an iftar meal in the nearby Guildhall.

During the event, the young attendees discussed ways to celebrate diversity and bring communities together. They spoke of the importance of understanding other people’s traditions, and the sense of empowerment brought about by attending such a gathering in St Paul’s.

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 wins Faith and Belief Forum’s inspirational individual award

Original article published on 27 November 2018

Harris Bokhari wins Faith and Belief Forum’s inspirational individual award for services to and for faith and belief communties in London – making a lasting contribution to the life of our city

Londoners working to serve their communities and bring people from different backgrounds together were recognised at the London Faith & Belief Community Awards on Tuesday 27 November. 40 projects run by individuals and organisations, inspired by their faiths or beliefs to make a difference, were given awards for their work in areas ranging from inspiring youth and wellbeing to interfaith relations and inclusion.

The Awards are an initiative of the Faith & Belief Forum, supported by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith. The Awards aim to shine a light on the great work done by ordinary people to make London a city where everyone belongs and feels welcome – work that often goes unrecognised. Each winning project is given £500 to further their work.

The award ceremony at the Royal Society of Medicine brought together organisations and individuals from across London who work tirelessly in their local communities for harmony and inclusion. In addition to the 40 projects given awards, the achievements of several inspiring individuals were recognised, and the great work of a further 66 projects highlighted.

Phil Champain, the Director of the Faith & Belief Forum:

“If we are to truly extend the benefits of our city to all, then we need to ensure that all Londoners get fair access to services, we need to alleviate deprivation, reduce social tension and promote inclusion. The fact that so many relatively small and modest organisations made up of people of different faiths and non-religious beliefs collaborate to achieve these aims gives hope and inspiration.”

Dr David Dangoor DL, Chair of Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London’s Council on Faith:

“The London Faith & Belief Community Awards is a wonderful demonstration of what people motivated by their faith or belief can achieve for this city. By shining a light on their work, this event promotes and connects the unsung heroes of London’s faith and belief communities. This event also gives them access to further support which may enhance their work and inspire others to take action.”

Bishop of London attends her first iftar organised by Harris Bokhari

The Bishop of London, The Rt Revd and Rt Hon Dame Sarah Mullally DBE attend her first ever iftar at the first Interfaith Iftar hosted at the St John’s Wood Synagogue and organised by Harris Bokhari on Wednesday 30th May 2018. Speakers included Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Bishop of London and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The event empowered and raised the aspirations of 150 young people aged 18-30 years old (the average age was 24), representing all 32 boroughs of London, from all faiths and none and provided wonderful opportunity to celebrate faith in the centre of our vibrant and diverse capital. The young people came together to discuss how they best thought they could bring faith and non faith communities together in London for the betterment of all our communities.

Harris Bokhari organises first Interfaith Iftar at St John’s Wood Synagogue with the Chief Rabbi

Harris Bokhari OBE organised the first ever Interfaith Iftar hosted at the St John’s Wood Synagogue on Wednesday 30th May 2018. Speakers included Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Bishop of London and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. The event empowered and raised the aspirations of 150 young people aged 18-30 years old (the average age was 24), representing all 32 boroughs of London, from all faiths and none and provided wonderful opportunity to celebrate faith in the centre of our vibrant and diverse capital. The young people came together to discuss how they best thought they could bring faith and non faith communities together in London for the betterment of all our communities.

Articles include:

Further to the Interfaith Iftar, the Naz Legacy Foundation carried out an impact assessment and asked everyone involved how they found the day. Some of the highlights from the report are below,

– 54% of the young people had never been to an iftar before

– 79% had never been to an interfaith iftar 

– 44% had never been to a synagogue.  

– 89% strongly agreeing/agreed the iftar was inspiring

– 79% strongly agreed/agreed that they had increased knowledge about other faiths as a direct result of the iftar 

– 86% felt positive that the event improved access to people from different faiths

– 94% of the young people felt positive about taking part in more social action projects with people from different faiths in result of the iftar 

– 88% felt confident that they would keep in touch with people that they had met at the Iftar. 

– Over 50% young people from faiths that they had not met before despite living in multi-cultural London.  This resulted in a 21%-point increase in the respondents’ knowledge of other faiths post-Iftar. 

– Overall 97% rated the Iftar as Good or Excellent.

The full report can be read here:

Naz Legacy – Interfaith Iftar 2018 Evaluaiton report

Board Member Harris Bokhari OBE organises special interfaith iftar

Original article published on 23 June 2017 on Mosaic

Mosaic was thrilled to be involved in the recent inaugural interfaith Iftar at the Archbishop’s House hosted by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Mosaic was represented on the day by senior members of the Mosaic team and members of the Mosaic Advisory Board, including Chairman Shabir Randeree CBE and member Harris Bokhari OBE, co-founder of the Naz Legacy Foundation and organiser of the Interfaith Iftar.

The event saw 100 young Londoners of different faiths and of no faith, including pupils from Mosaic partner schools Westminster Academy and Ernest Bevin College, join the Cardinal Vincent Nichols,  Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and Mosaic Ambassador Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in the daily breaking of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

A Mosaic mentee from Westminster Academy who attended his first interfaith Iftar said afterwards: “This event really opened my eyes and has encouraged me to involve people of different faiths  when planning any project. The ideas I have heard today have been so inspiring”.

Harris Bokhari OBE said: “It has never been more important than now to bring people of faith and no faith together. We have to create more spaces where we are able to share with each other that we have more in common and break down the prejudices of not knowing the other. I hope this will lead to many of the young people to implement some of their ideas into real action which benefits their local communities.”The Prime Minister Rt Hon Theresa May MP sent a letter which was read out on the night, which said: “The work of the Foundation is truly the best of British; bringing young people together who would otherwise not have met, from very different backgrounds for good purposes at a time when we need more than ever to celebrate the positive contributions that faith can bring to our country”.