LEEDS – A group of Muslim men have brought flowers to a Leeds synagogue which was attacked with racist graffiti, a gesture praised as wonderful by the Jewish community.
“I was truly humbled by [the] amazing gesture – the gift of flowers and your support,” a member of the Etz Chaim community, Harry Brown, commented on Facebook, The Independent reported on Saturday, October 14.
“This is what we want to see, and equally the Jewish community should reach out not only to Muslim faiths but to all other faiths.
“From an unpleasant episode came a wonderful outpouring of support which the whole community appreciates.”
The swastika and a racial slur were daubed on the sign outside the Etz Chaim synagogue in Leeds on Tuesday night, shocking the community.
In response, four local Muslim men brought flowers to show support and solidarity, where they were welcomed by the synagogue.
The gesture was suggested by 36-year-old Shahab Adris, the Yorkshire and Humber regional manager of Mend, a not-for-profit company which hopes to reduce Islamophobia and increase engagement and development within British communities.
“When I was first shown the images of the graffiti, I was disgusted. Unfortunately, it is something we are accustomed to in the Muslim community, and it is the same as a mosque being desecrated with a pig’s head, or similar vile graffiti,” Adris told The Independent.
“I asked around if people would like to come with me, and four of us went with a bunch of flowers to show our support and empathy.”
Adris said they arrived at the synagogue at the end of a service. “Some of our group had been a bit nervous as they had never been to a synagogue before. We didn’t know how they would react to a group of quite obviously Muslim men standing outside.”
The men were greeted by the rabbi and immediately welcomed into the synagogue.
“We spent 40 minutes discussing religion and how we can work together to promote love and peace. Not the hatred shown by those who had left the graffiti,” Adris said.
For Adris, the visit offered hope to continue to “build stronger ties” with the Jewish community, other religions and even the people who may have painted the graffiti.
“If these people are found I would definitely want to engage with them and speak with them,” he said.
”We must continue to work within local communities to dispel misconceptions and also hatred – it is important.
“It extends to other faiths too. Last night I helped cook dinner for 60 people with the All Hallows Church in Leeds; working in local communities is the best way forward.
“We can spread love and not hate, and get rid of the misconceptions held about Islam as well as Judaism.”
The Muslim men gesture was praised on Facebook.
“Thank you for your support and standing up against racist behavior,” Elsje Prins commented.
“It is very much appreciated and like […] others have already mentioned, I would very much like to be part of a dialogue and help to develop our connections. Your actions show the way forward.”
In a statement on their website, the Leeds Stand Up to Racism group wrote: “We condemn in the strongest terms the recent foul anti-Semitic attack on the Etz Chaim synagogue in Leeds, and offer our full solidarity and support to the worshippers at Etz Chaim and the wider Jewish community in Leeds.
“Leeds is a proud multicultural and multi-faith city in which people of all religions and none live happily side by side.
“The person or persons who carried out this shameful attack represent a tiny fraction of our population and their Nazi- and hate-filled ideology and behavior are not welcome here or anywhere.”