Leading interfaith activists such as Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg have defended working with extremist institutions by claiming, “We have to take risks to engage with each other. The Jewish community will be far weaker if we all shelter within a comfort zone labeled ‘They all hate us out there’.”
As the British Islamist preacher Haitham Al-Haddad noted, not only do Islamist groups employ interfaith dialogue as a deception, but it is a deception that is crucial: “We are talking about minorities living in the West so we have to provide them with workable solutions in the short run. … It is not the far ultimate aim of Muslims because the far ultimate aim for Muslims is to have Islam governing the whole world, Islamization of the whole globe.”
Unfortunately, honorable activities do not only attract those with honorable intentions. Over the next decade, religious extremists may, in all likelihood, continue to foster violence and hatred in Britain. Should government really be in the business of promoting homophobes, anti-Semites and supporters of terror by continuing to fund, with taxpayers’ money, interfaith networks so closely involved with the extremists themselves?
Interfaith dialogue is a powerful industry in Britain. Many hundreds of groups receive many hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ funds to promote dialogue between groups of different faith. On the face of it, such initiatives appear to indicate progress and civilized discussion. But what sorts of groups are involved with the world of interfaith?
The Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom
The largest umbrella group in Britain for interfaith initiatives is theÂ Inter Faith Network for the United Kingdom(IFN). Founded in 1987, the IFN claims it works to “promote understanding and respect” between different faith groups.
The IFN has received millions of pounds of taxpayers’ funds: 80% of the IFN’s budget, in fact, is taxpayers’ money.Â In 2011 alone, the Department for Communities and Local Government granted Â£373,990 to the IFN.
In July 2013, a delegate to an IFN meeting in Birmingham told the conference that he had heard a senior interfaith official claim that “Jews were a disease.”Â The delegate then denounced a number of groups present at the conference for their collaboration with signatories to the Istanbul Declaration, aÂ documentÂ that calls for attacks on British troops and Jewish communities.
The IFN’s stated aims, then, are clearly at odds with the views held by some of its membership.
The IFN’s executive committee includes Ayub Laher,Â who is part of the ultra-conservative Deobandi movement. Laher belongs to Jamiat Ulama-e-Britain (JuB), the representative body of Deobandi scholars in Britain, whose Pakistani partner, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, is “directly affiliated” to Pakistani Deobandi seminaries with close ties to the Taliban.Â The Pakistani group’s leader, Fazlur Rehman, described in Pakistan as a “patron of jihad,” has stated that his organization and the Ayub Laher’s JuB “have a unanimity of thought and ideology.”