Should European Muslims learn from Zionism? - Opinion

Antisemitism’s history differs greatly from that of Islamophobia. The latter’s roots in Western Europe are recent. Islamophobia attributes negative characteristics to all Muslims.

June 5, 2019 22:55
4 minute read.
Thedodor Herzl, lors du 1er congrès sioniste mondial en 1897

Thedodor Herzl, lors du 1er congrès sioniste mondial en 1897. (photo credit: DR)

The origins of contemporary European antisemitism derive from widespread ancient negative stereotypes of Jews. For more than a thousand years, Jews have not been able to live quietly in Europe for prolonged periods. Negative attitudes toward Jews have been interwoven with European culture for many centuries. The contemporary symbol of European Jews’ feelings of unrest is the need for security at synagogues and Jewish institutions.

Antisemitism’s history differs greatly from that of Islamophobia. The latter’s roots in Western Europe are recent. Islamophobia attributes negative characteristics to all Muslims. Seemingly, Muslims are now gradually taking over the role of the prime outsiders in Europe from Jews. This is facilitated by a number of factors. One of these is that there are up to 20 million Muslims in Western Europe. The number of Jews is less than 1.5 million.
There are other less visible factors. One among these is that Islam is a proselytizing religion. Almost all Muslims or their ancestors arrived in Western Europe only during the past decades. Some of them are attempting to convert native Europeans to Islam and thus move them away from the continent’s lead culture. The huge misbehavior by some Muslims also plays a role in Islamophobia. Much of Muslim terrorism is linked to the criminals’ view of Islam’s tenets. The cry Allahu Akbar, which sometimes accompanies Muslim terrorist acts, expresses this.

Terrorist and extreme criminal acts strengthen widespread negative stereotypes toward all Muslims. It doesn’t matter whether they are Salafists or non-believers. In the minds of Europeans who believe these overall negative stereotypes, Muslims are all the same. For many, differentiating between Islamists and Muslims is a game for the politically correct. The statement “Islam belongs to Europe,” sometimes uttered by politicians, is seen similarly.

There are various reasons for the rise of nationalistic populism in most Western European countries. Terrorism in the name of Islam, extreme criminality by some Muslims and Muslim demands from society are only part of these. Yet populist parties use them as central tools in their propaganda. Many others have also concluded that multiculturalism is a mistaken concept. Without a lead culture, European societies are steadily eroding further.

Much can be learned from how the Muslim reality in Europe is seen by an insider. The former head of the German domestic intelligence service, Hans Georg Maassen, said in a recent lecture: “When discussing political Islam, that extremism is silent and in my view often underestimated.” He pointed out that this results from the focus of attention on terrorism. Maassen added, “It is not hit teams which regularly propagate Islamism among us.” He furthermore remarked that the protagonists of political Islam are often well educated and considered well integrated.

Maassen complained that in the fight against radical Islamism, there is no support from moderate or secular Muslims, especially given the fact that there are a multitude of small Muslim organizations in Germany. He then made a potentially explosive remark, which was barely noticed by the media. Maassen said that “It is extremely difficult to point out any Muslim organizations which are not monitored by German intelligence services.”

Maassen went even further and said that the authorities sometimes subsidize Muslim organizations despite being warned about them by the domestic intelligence service. He summarized the German situation saying that Islamists in the country can do many things that are not permitted in Arab states. Maassen called the situation in Germany, “a Wild West for Islamists.” If these views of the intelligence service are taken over and regularly repeated by the media, it will further complicate the position of Muslims in German society.

ZIONISTS STARTED to organize around the beginning of the 19th century. Founders of the movement realized that irrespective of what Jews did, they would never be “normal” citizens of Europe. Jews remained outsiders, no matter however big their contributions have been to European societies in science, industrialization, medical care, charity and many other areas. A few decades later, assimilation and illusionary integration into mainstream societies would not protect any Jews from the gas chambers.

Thus, negative stereotypes of Jews – initially promoted by Christianity and further scaled up by Nazi propagandists – led to genocide in the Second World War. There were many beyond German and Austrian adherents of the genocidal ideology who collaborated with the Nazis. Nowadays, many Jews are preoccupied by the question of whether there is a future for them and in particular for their children in Europe. Thus, the tenets of Zionism are still meaningful.

If Jews have doubts about their future in Western Europe, shouldn’t Muslims ask questions about theirs as well? A new holocaust against them is unlikely. Will anti-Muslim movements, which have in the past decades started to organize, disappear or increase in force? The degree of sentiment toward them and Muslims may differ from country to country. A variety of factors will influence the outcome. Can Muslims realistically hope to fully integrate in Europe?

Will all this lead to a significant movement among European Muslims to consider that they are better off in Muslim lands even if these are poorer? There are also ideological currents in Islam that claim that Muslims should live in countries where Islam is the dominant religion. In the meantime, the net influx of people from Muslim countries into Europe continues.

The major problem of Zionist leaders was that there was no Jewish country to go to. The Jewish state had to be established with blood, sweat and tears. Muslims leaving Europe can try to find their place in one of the more than 50 countries with a Muslim majority. There is already much for Muslims to learn from Zionism. Time will tell whether the lessons to be drawn will continue to increase.

The writer is emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism, and the International Leadership Award by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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