Faith in Football

Monday, 27 June, 2011
Working group set up to help tackle anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.


On the 22 June, The FA held the inaugural meeting of the Faith In Football Working Group at Wembley Stadium.

The group, chaired by Alex Goldberg from the Faiths Forum for London and the European Center for Jewish Leadership, met to agree a set of principles by which the group would work together; and use the power of football to break down barriers between people of different religious denominations.

The meeting was attended by Alison Vaughan (Kick it Out), Butch Fazal (Luton SFC and FA REAG Member), Majid Lavji and Lee Owen (Asia Europe), Sukhvinder Cheema, Rimla Akhter (Muslim Women Sports Foundation and FA REAG member), Rabbi Zevi Sanders (Southport Hebrew Congregation and Manager Crumpsall FC), Aisling Cohn (Three Faith Forums) and Abdal Ahmed (Osmani Trust) and a representative of the Metropolitan Police Safe Neighbourhood Teams.

Over the next 12 months, the group will be setting up a number of tournaments and competitions across the country at high profile stadiums and raising good practice around Faith In Football as part of The FAs Get Into Football campaign. The group will also work closely with Kick it Out as part of the Kick it Out Weeks of Action campaign as well as holding education sessions at Wembley stadium.

Alex Goldberg said: “It's remarkable that we have a consensus within this group that football can promote social action and break down barriers between people of different faiths. Collectively we have a responsibility to tackling faith based discrimination in the game, particularly Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and a need to bridge the gap between football and religious communities where football has not been played in a structured way. Clearly, The FA is moving in the right direction in addressing these issues and moving this important agenda forward.”

Butch Fazal of Luton SFC, added: ”It’s a piece of work that is critically important and by raising awareness through this group and educating others, we can begin to challenge Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.”

Alison Vaughan, Campaign Manager for Kick it Out, said: ”It is really important that we recognise good practice in this area of work, and through our Weeks of Action programmes, we can encourage education and raise awareness around this topic in schools and pull together regional seminars to debate and discuss the topic further.”

Rimla Akhter of the Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation commented: ”It is equally important to educate the adults and parents as well as young people.”

Finally, The FA's Equality Co-ordinator Jonathan Mills said: “Over the past couple of years, The FA has been working closely with John Mann MP on a whole football approach to tackling Anit-Semitism and Islamophobia. This working group is certainly a step in the right direction in promoting unity between people of different faiths.”

The group will meet again in September in the West Midlands, if you would like to get involved please contact Alex Goldberg or Jonathan Mills

Boycotter blames the Board for antisemitism in Britain

By Marcus Dysch

The Board of Deputies is to blame for rising antisemitism in Britain, according to a leading member of a Jewish anti-Israel group.

Tony Greenstein, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), was speaking on the BBC1 debate show, The Big Questions, on Sunday morning.

During the wide-ranging discussion, Mr Greenstein said: “Of course there’s no justification for antisemitism, but there’s also no justification for the Board of Deputies calling rallies in support of the invasion of Lebanon and Gaza in the name of the British Jewish community. That causes antisemitism.
“It associates every Jewish person with the terror in Lebanon and Gaza.”

Among those debating issues including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the need for synagogues to employ security guards, were Alex Goldberg, of the London Jewish Forum; Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust; and Israeli-born anti-Zionist Professor Haim Bresheeth.

Prof Bresheeth said many people in Britain were “justifiably irate about what Israel has done in Gaza”.

Jonathan Sacerdoti, of the Zionist Federation, responded by saying attempts to burn down shuls in London had “nothing to do with Zionism or Israeli policy in the Middle East”.

Hadar Sela, who has dual British-Israeli citizenship, said: “If you have a gripe with Israeli foreign policy then that’s great, you’re entitled to have a gripe with it, but come to me. I’m Israeli. Come and make your gripe with me, not with British Jews.

“When things happen in Sri Lanka or China nobody takes it out on Chinese or Sri Lankan people in Britain, and so they shouldn’t. They also should not take it out on British Jews.”

Following the broadcast, the Board of Deputies defended the peace rallies it helped organise in London and Manchester at the height of the Gaza conflict in January.

A spokesman said: “It is regrettable that Mr Greenstein doesn’t feel that there was any justification for the rallies. Fortunately we know of at least 17,000 people between London and Manchester who would disagree with him.

“British Jews are desperate for peace in Israel and desperate for an end to terror. The suggestion that we should expect to be victims of hate crime because of that is insulting and dangerous.”

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