Islamic activist admits he donated cash to jailed historian who denied the Holocaust
Asghar Bukhari, a founder member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), which describes itself as Britain’s largest Muslim civil rights group, sent money to Irving and urged Islamic websites to ask visitors to make donations to his fighting fund.
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Bukhari contacted the discredited historian, sentenced this year to three years in an Austrian prison for Holocaust denial, after reading his website. He headed his mail to Irving with a quotation attributed to the philosopher John Locke: ‘All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to stand idle.’
In one email Bukhari tells Irving: ‘You may feel like you are on your own but rest assured many people are with you in your fight for the Truth.’ Bukhari pledges to make a donation of £60 to Irving’s fighting fund and says that he has asked ‘a few of my colleagues to send some in too’. He also offers to send Irving a book, They Dare to Speak Out, by Paul Findley, a former US Senator, who has attacked his country’s close relationship with Israel. Bukhari says Findley ‘has suffered like you in trying to expose certain falsehoods perpetrated by the Jews’.
In a follow-up letter, Bukhari writes: ‘Here is the cheque I promised. Good luck, if there is any other way I can help please don’t hestitate to call me. I have also asked many Muslim websites to create links to your own and ask for donations.’
Bukhari confirmed sending the letters in 2000. ‘I had a lot of sympathy for anyone who opposed Israel,’ Bukhari told The Observer said. ‘I wrote letters to anyone who was tough against the Israelis – David Irving, Paul Findley, the PLO.”I don’t feel I have done anything wrong, to be honest. At the time I was of the belief he [Irving] was anti-Zionist, being smeared for nothing more then being anti-Zionist.
‘The pro-Israeli lobby often accused people of anti-Semitism and smear tactics against groups and individuals is well known. I condemn anti-Semitism as strongly as I condemn Zionism (in my opinion they are both racist ideologies). I also believe that anyone who denies the Holocaust is wrong (I don’t think they should be put behind bars for it though).’
At his trial this year, Irving said he had been ‘mistaken’ to say the gas chambers did not exist. He had been due to attend a conference hosted by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, questioning the ‘truthfulness’ of the Holocaust.
‘David Irving was described by a High Court judge as a falsifier of history and a false denier,’ said Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust. ‘I can’t understand why anyone would want to support his views, let alone encourage and influence others to sympathise with them. I’m appalled.’
Earlier this year, speaking on behalf of MPAC, Bukhari said a march in London in protest at the publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad should not have gone ahead. ‘We believe it should have been banned and the march stopped,’ Bukhari said. ‘Freedom of speech has to be responsible.’
MPAC was banned from university campuses in 2004 after being branded ‘anti-semitic’ by the National Union of Students. It is becoming increasingly influential within the Muslim community. At the last election the organisation drew up a list of Labour candidates with links to Israel, whom it urged Muslims to vote out. One MP, Lorna Fitzsimons, lost her seat to the Lib Dems by 400 votes.
‘Getting into bed with Holocaust revisionists who are the heroes of racist organisations which use Islamophobia to divide communities on racial and religious grounds is just extraordinary and very, very sad,’ Fitzsimons said.
MPAC, which strongly denies allegations that it is anti-semitic, accused The Observer of ‘twisting an innocent gesture of support (even if gravely mistaken) into more than it is’. The story was ‘just another Islamaphobic attack aimed at undermining and harming the brave individuals who support the Palestinian cause and the cause of Muslims within Britain.’