Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Winning the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism in Europe

Winning the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism in Europe

Though some in Europe remain in denial, the recent killings of Jews in Copenhagen and Paris epitomize the resurgence of anti-Semitism across the continent. There have been other, similar killings in recent years, along with dozens of attempted ones that were thwarted, and hundreds of nonlethal attacks on people, synagogues and cemeteries. The culture of hate that surrounds these crimes extends far beyond the community of criminals and provides a kind of warped moral justification. The tragic consequence is a growing number of Jews who feel that they have no future on the continent.

Where does the hate come from? A recent study of anti-Semitism in France shows how historic European canards against Jews, which persist in traditional quarters, have been eagerly embraced by immigrant communities. Among the far right as well as the far left, a critical mass share the belief that violence committed against Jews last summer amid anti-Israel protests were “understandable,” that French Jews are less “French” than other citizens and that the community holds “too much power” in media and politics. The country’s Muslim citizens are twice as likely to subscribe to these views as fringe right and left-wingers. Most disturbingly, perhaps, the extent of anti-Semitism among French Muslims appears to correlate directly with the degree of their religiosity.

As a Moroccan Muslim and a frequent visitor to Paris, I feel it is especially important to grapple with the role of religion in this tragedy. In seeking to explain the killings in Copenhagen and Paris and the broader, global jihadist phenomenon, Muslims as well as non-Muslims routinely assert that groups like ISIS have “nothing to do with Islam.” A recent, prominent example is French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, who recently said as much to a group of Muslim citizens in the town of Lunel, from which more than ten young people had joined the ranks of ISIS. I reject the premise of his statement.

In doing so, I sleight neither my holy book, the Qur’an; nor my prophet, Muhammad. To the contrary, I am defending both from a large number of Muslim clerics, in the West as well as the Arab world, who interpret Islam and lead the faithful in prayer and contemporary life. Too many preachers who condemn ISIS, Al-Qaeda and attacks on the Jews of Europe have nonetheless contributed to the growth of these phenomena by parroting anti-Semitic and xenophobic tropes to their most impressionable followers. Far from having “nothing to do with Islam,” these clerics are a crucial part of the continuum of Islamic tradition as experienced by Muslims today. The first step toward addressing the problem is to stop denying it.

Perhaps the second step is to look for examples of policies toward Islamic leadership that have…

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