TARIQ RAMADAN: MUSLIMS AND ANTI-SEMITISM
The responsibility of the Muslims and the Jews in the West is tremendous: living together, both citizens of the same countries, they should raise their voices in the name of justice and mutual respect. In France, for example, one finds a unique situation; namely, the largest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe living together. In America, we find the same situation with two important religious communities sharing the same citizenship. That itself should be an ideal opportunity for people to learn to live in harmony. However, the reality is that problems are on the rise. While tensions have been incidental in the past, the situation has been exacerbated during the second intifada, and more recently, during the upsurge of violence in the Middle East. The trend appears to be that the Muslim immigrants as well as native European and American Muslims are becoming extremely sensitive to the events occurring in Palestine and are demonstrating their frustration quite overtly.
Malicious words, cries of “down with the Jews” shouted during protest demonstrations, and in a few cities in France, reports of synagogues being vandalized. One also hears ambiguous statements about Jews, their “occult-like” power, their insidious role within the media and their nefarious plans. After September 11th, the false rumor that 4,000 Jews did not show up for work the morning of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade center, was relayed throughout predominantly Muslim areas.
It is very rare to hear Muslim voices that set themselves apart from this kind of discourse and attitude. Often, one will try to explain away this phenomena being a result of extreme frustration and humiliation. That may be true, but one must be honest and analyze the situation deeply. Much like the situation across the Muslim world, there exists in the West today a discourse which is anti-Semitic, seeking legitimacy in certain Islamic texts and support in the present situation in Palestine. This is the attitude of not only marginalized youth, but also of intellectuals and Imams, who see the manipulative hand of the “Jewish lobby” at each turn or every political setback,
The situation is far too serious for one to be satisfied by simple explanations based on current frustrations. In the name of their faith and their conscience, Muslims must take a clear position so that a pernicious atmosphere does not take hold in the Western countries. Nothing in Islam can legitimize xenophobia or the rejection of a human being due to his/her religious creed or ethnicity. One must say unequivocally, with force, that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and indefensible. The message of Islam requires respect of Jewish faith and spirituality as noble expressions of “The People of the Book”.