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British Muslims snub Downing Street Eid party in protest over Gaza

April 16, 2024 at 1:09 pm

A view of the waving flag of England at the 10 Downing Street in London, United Kingdom on 19 March, 2024 [Raşid Necati Aslım/Anadolu Agency]

The annual Eid party hosted by the prime minister at 10 Downing Street has been overshadowed by a major boycott from British Muslims protesting against the government’s support for Israel and its military offensive in Gaza.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had previously expressed his enthusiasm for hosting Muslim figures at the event, failed to attend, citing parliamentary business related to his statement on Iran in the House of Commons. Instead, the small number of guests who accepted the invitation were greeted by deputy foreign secretary Andrew Mitchell.

The number of attendees at this year’s event was notably lower than usual, with a reported 50 people present, approximately half the typical turnout. Many of those who attended are said to have worn small badges featuring the Palestinian flag or wrist and hair bands made from traditional Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, as a sign of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

Prominent Muslim figures, including Baroness Warsi, the Conservative peer and Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, were among those who boycotted the gathering. Warsi has been vocal in her criticism of the government’s stance on the plight of people in Gaza. Major Muslim charities and significant Muslim business figures also opted to stay away.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary David Cameron had publicly urged people to attend the event, but his call appears to have had little impact.

Surprise was expressed at Sunak’s absence by those who went to No 10, noting that the prime minister has always hosted the annual gathering in the past. Some attendees mentioned that they had grappled with the decision to attend, discussing the matter with family members over the weekend to determine whether it was the right thing to do.

One woman is reported by the BBC as saying that while she did not want to miss out on her first invitation to Downing Street, she wanted to make it clear that the situation in Gaza “has not been forgotten.” Another guest, who has attended the event for a number of years, said that he understood why many had chosen to boycott, but believed that it was the right thing for him to attend.

The significant number of no-shows is believed to be the first boycott of its kind at such an event in the UK, highlighting the growing discontent among British Muslims over the government’s stance on Israel’s genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza. The boycott follows a similar protest by American Muslims at the annual Iftar (fast-breaking) hosted by the White House during Ramadan, which was in response to US support for Israel.

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