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Europe’s top rabbi calls for solidarity with Muslims

04 May, 2017 16:03
Europe’s top rabbi calls for solidarity with Muslims

Jews and Muslims in Europe have a common cause in resisting attacks on minority religions and defending religious freedom, Europe’s top rabbi has said. Speaking on the eve of Passover, which begins on Monday, chief rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt warned that the rise of ultra-nationalist parties and damage to the European Union caused by Brexit threatened the security of Jewish and Muslim minorities.

Europe was heading into a period of fluidity and turbulence, “which raises the question to what extent can you ensure the continuity of the Jewish community in Europe,” he said. A new mood of hostility to minority religions was being fueled by fears over immigration and terrorism. “In general what we see is a reaction to immigration from the Middle East which has brought millions of Muslims to Europe. Europe is now engaging in anti-immigration measures and [dealing with] the fear of Islamic terrorism. But instead of engaging with the problems, there is a strong attack against minority religions in general. “We [Jews and Muslims] definitely have a common cause in fighting for religious freedoms.”

Goldschmidt cited calls to close mosques, ban methods of ritual slaughter in the production of halal and kosher meat, outlaw circumcision – practiced by Jews and Muslims – and last month’s European court of justice ruling that employers could ban workers from wearing religious symbols or clothing. Concerns over religious freedom in Europe led to the formation of the Muslim-Jewish Leadership Council in September 2015. Its leaders said it was the “first common platform for European Muslims and Jews”.

With the victory of Trump, we have ultra-nationalist parties feeling invigorated and strengthened. Jews had been victims of Islamist terrorism in Europe, Goldschmidt pointed out. “We are the last ones to say it is not a problem. But what we are saying is that you don’t counter and fight Islamic terrorism by fighting Islam. It’s extremely important to mark a red line between normative Islam and radicalism and terrorism using the name of Islam. That red line must be seen and recognized by everyone. But populist parties in France, Holland, Austria and Germany are trying not to see this red line. It’s imperative for us and millions of Muslims living in Europe to show everyone this red line exists.”

The rabbi also warned against “covert antisemitism” under the banner of the movement to boycott Israel in protest at its 50-year occupation of Palestinian territories. “It’s not politically correct to be an all-out antisemite, but in many instances the state of Israel has replaced the Jew. To some extent, organizations … which are trying to delegitimize the state of Israel is a covert expression of antisemitism.” There was a “great distance” between legitimate criticism of the Israeli government and the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, he said. The festival of Passover, during which Jews commemorate the Israelites’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt, told in the biblical story of the Exodus, begins at sunset on Monday and lasts for eight days.

Source: The Guardian

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