Who's behind the 'Mossad Stole My Shoe' slogan?
Thousands have now mocked a British Muslim leader's comments by using the satirical slogan "Mossad Stole My Shoe" - but the man behind the hashtag says it was intended to expose anti-Semitic attitudes in Muslim communities.
It all began with a Facebook post by Asghar Bukhari, a founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPAC) - a UK pressure group which works to counter Islamophobia and Zionism, among other aims. He said his home was burgled, only a single shoe was stolen, and claimed it was a deliberate tactic of intimidation by Zionists.
"I dont know how they got in, but they didn't break in - the only thing they took was one shoe. Now think about that, the only thing they took was a single shoe - they left one shoe behind to let me know someone had been there," he said in a Facebook post which began "ARE ZIONISTS TRYING TO INTIMIDATE ME".
Despite the alleged theft, Bukhari told BBC Trending he didn't contact the police after the incident: "I really couldn't see what they would have done." When asked what the motivation for the act was, he cited a new book that said Russian agents are using "psychological" techniques - such as moving furniture - against activists, journalists and Western diplomats - and speculated that his opponents were using similar techniques against him.
But his suggestion that pro-Israel forces were behind the act was roundly mocked online with the hashtag "Mossad Stole My Shoe". It was used by a mix of people, including liberals from Muslim backgrounds, conservative commentators, Israelis and supporters of Israel.
(To be clear, Bukhari never specifically mentioned Mossad, Israel's national intelligence agency, only "Zionists", though he did later use the hashtag in the caption to a response video.) The tag was used more than 16,000 times and other related ones such as #ShoeishConspiracy were also trending.
Not only did various memes crop up mocking Bukhari's allegations, but his shoe also became the subject of a Twitter account and and a jokey Change.org petition demanding its return. Israeli's ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, tweeted: "We have your shoe, @AsgharBukhari. Call me."
"Asghar Bukhari's shoe being interrogated & tortured as I write. Please everyone, pray for safe return of Bukhari's shoe," wrote one journalist.
Asked about the satire, Bukhari told us he felt he was being targeted by supporters of Israel. The hashtag was popularised and driven by Maajid Nawaz, a former radical Islamist turned liberal activist and chairman of the anti-extremist foundation Quilliam. "He's not just some isolated loon. Asghar-one-shoe is founding member of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK," Nawaz tweeted.
"There's an unhealthy anti-Semitic strand to MPAC's thinking," Nawaz told BBC Trending. "Satire is one of the best ways to combat this. By mocking something like this, I hope to make it more taboo and less acceptable for Muslims to spread these kinds of conspiracy theories."
Nawaz claims MPAC doesn't have huge grassroots support, but at the same time says "the views they hold are widely held among some Muslim communities - too widely held for my comfort."
In response to the Twitter storm - more than 16,000 tweets were posted under the "Mossad Stole My Shoes" hashtag - Bukhari also angrily denounced his critics in a 15-minute YouTube video posted Saturday. He told Trending that "around four" other Muslims had come to him with similar stories. Although he wouldn't reveal their names, he did say one was a "famous female" who had gone out of the house with her child and found that a piece of furniture had been moved when she came back home. In the video, Bukhari called Nawaz an "Uncle Tom nut job" and accused him of getting funding from pro-Israel supporters. Nawaz dismissed the allegations.
"We are supported by charities, we have Muslim backers, non-Muslim backers, Christian backers, atheist backers," he says. "Bukhari's response to anyone who disagrees with them is that they are pro-Zionist stooges, or neoconservatives, or 'Uncle Toms'... I hope that this particular incident helps to create a climate of a taboo against conspiracy theories."
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