Muslims of Lancaster backed by MP in condemning 'oppression, injustice and violence' in Palestine

Islamic groups and societies in Lancaster said they are truly saddened by the events that have unfolded in Palestine over the last few days.

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 1:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 1:41 pm

They have asked Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith to raise the issue in parliament and call for a response from government.

An urgent question was asked in the House of Commons this morning about the current situation in Israel and Palestine.

Ms Smith said she had applied to speak but was unsuccessful.

The statement was signed by several Islamic groups and societies in Lancaster.

She said that she had received many letters from constituents about the deepening crisis in Palestine, and condemned the actions taken by Israel.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is urging Israel and the Palestinians to step back from the brink and for both sides to show restraint.

He said the UK is deeply concerned by the growing violence and civilian casualties and wants to see an urgent de-escalation of tensions.

The BBC has reported that the deadly exchange of fire between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli military has escalated significantly, with the UN fearing a "full-scale war".

At least 43 Palestinians and six Israelis have been killed since Monday, including 13 Palestinian children caught up in the conflict.

Lancaster Mosques and Partners UK said in a statement following an attack by Israeli police on the Masjid Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem on Monday: "The community in Lancaster is truly saddened by the events that have unfolded in Palestine over the last few days.

"Witnessing brutality and destruction caused on one of the holiest sites in Islam in the holiest month of the year is especially painful for the Muslims of Lancaster.

"No-one should ever feel under threat in their place of worship, let alone have to deal with stun grenades, rubber bullets, and gas being thrown at them whilst praying."

The statement goes on to say:

"We call on our local MP Cat Smith and the wider community of Lancaster to openly speak out against the oppression, injustice and violence we have seen over the last few days in the hope that we can start to see change."

Ms Smith said: "I totally condemn the invasion of private Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, the attempts to evict their occupants on the basis of racially-discriminatory laws and the invasion of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

"The violence perpetrated by Israeli forces against people at prayer was especially outrageous.

"These are not isolated events but symptoms of the policies of settlement expansion and the ongoing effort to alter the demographic make-up of Jerusalem to minimise its Palestinian population.

"All this activity is a violation of international law - it must cease immediately.

"We have once again seen violence effect communities across Palestine and Israel.

"No party should take action which puts civilians at risk - be that Israeli children needing to shelter from rocket fire or Palestinian residents in Gaza, confined under siege and now once again bombed by Israeli forces.

"I call on all involved to rapidly de-escalate this crisis and work towards a long term agreement.

"I have seen for myself when visiting the region what terrible damage over half a century of ‘temporary’ occupation has done.

"Jerusalem is a city holy to three faiths - it must be protected and treasured by all.

"The need for a solution that delivers freedom, justice and equality for all her people is more urgent than ever.

"Now is the time for action not words from the UK government and wider international community.

"The UK has rightfully frequently condemned Israeli settlement expansion and land expropriations in Jerusalem, but condemnation is not enough.

"To stop these violations of international law we need concrete political actions.

"A good first step would be to implement the policy adopted by the most recent Labour Party conference.

"This resolved to adhere to an ethical policy on all the UK’s trade with Israel, in particular by applying international law on settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and stopping any arms trade with Israel that is used in violation of the human rights of Palestinians.

"I have written to the Foreign Secretary to make these demands and will seek to raise them in Parliament."

Several Lancaster organisations signed the statement, including Naba' Arabic School, Jamea Al Khauter Islamic Girls School, Moorlands Islamic Centre, Raza Mosque of Lancaster, Lancaster Islamic Society, Lancaster University Islamic Society, Lancaster University Friends of Palestine Society, Lancaster University Pakistani Society, Global Link, and Lancaster University Arab Society.