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Both locally and international, Jeremy Corbyn (the Labour party leader) has strived to present the image of someone sympathetic to the issues faced by Muslims. At face value, his efforts seem valid. Mr Corbyn is generally at ease with Muslims and has taken every opportunity to visit mosques and condone Islamophobic attacks. At an international level, his public support for the Palestinian cause is well known.

However, some have questioned whether this well-cultivated image of being a political friend of Muslims can hold up to more intense scrutiny. Fiyaz Mughal OBE, a devout Muslim who is also the founder of three successful social enterprises (Faith Matters, Religious Reader and Tell MAMA), has written an opinion piece on this issue challenging Mr Corbyn’s image of commitment to the welfare of the Muslim population.

The Labour Party, under Corbyn, has faced serious criticism for anti-Semitic attitudes within its ranks, and the man himself has seemed ill at ease with the Jewish community. Analysts have suggested that the reason behind the anti-Semitism within the party is the belief that Israel is an imperialist state that has long been against the Palestinians. Therefore, when the Jewish community suffers racism or oppression, they only deserve sympathy if they’ve denounced Israel.

This view has come to influence’s Corbyn’s take on attacks on the Muslim community; when he doesn’t support persecuted Muslims, the persecutor is a movement or state that he sees as anti-imperialist. In Mr Corbyn’s view, victims of abuse and mistreatment by anti-imperialist groups belong in the same category as imperialists, so their oppression is likely self-inflicted or justified.

It’s Not Recent

Mr Mughal traces the faults in the Labour leader’s image back to his support for the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, whose paramilitary forces carried out a massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys, in addition to the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims, without any backlash from Western forces in the late 1990s. Milosevic had a similar strategy to undertake against the Muslims of Kosovo, leading to the displacement of over 800,000 Kosovar Muslims and the deaths of many others in what had the markings of genocide.

It was the intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) through airstrikes that prevented further bloodshed. Years later, Jeremy Corbyn supported a parliamentary motion highlighting the devastation of the events in Kosovo but whose claims were based on a reporter’s article that defended Milosevic. The article dismissed the trial of the Serbian leader for war crimes, terming them a ‘show trial’ for a leader whose only wrong (according to the journalist) was refusing give in to the demands of global finance organisations.

A Binary View

Some believe that Corbyn’s view of the world is binary, with imperialists on one side and anti-imperialists on the other. The list of states in the latter category varies but includes the likes of Syria, Iran, China, Russia and Venezuela. It would follow that a Muslim victimised by one of these states is unlikely to get any support from the Labour leader. In effect, the identity of the oppressor matters in his world.

Accordingly, his support of Palestinians would be conditional, so that if the Palestinians were to show support to, for example, the resistance against Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime, they wouldn’t be worthy of the UK’s support. By supporting the resistance, the Palestinians would no longer be a people oppressed by imperialist Israel but one that opposes the anti-imperialist Syrian administration.

Mr Corbyn’s stance on Muslim support is deemed an important matter to the UK because, as research conducted by consultancy firm Cornerstone Global in 2019 indicated, a Labour government with Corbyn at the helm would not enjoy rosy relations with the Middle East. According to the firm’s report, many of the UK’s trading partners in the region would view Mr Corbyn’s government suspiciously ad negatively, attitudes that would likely have an impact at economic, security and political levels.