By Dovid Efune
Earlier this week, the German chancellor Angela Merkel declared that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany had “utterly failed.” She added: “We kidded ourselves a while and we said that they won’t stay, sometime they will be gone, but this isn’t reality.”
The debate about multiculturalism in Germany first heated up in August when Thilo Sarrazin, a senior official at Germany’s central bank, said that “no immigrant group other than Muslims is so strongly connected with claims on the welfare state and crime”. Mr Sarrazin has since resigned.
These high profile statements are the latest in a string of ongoing happenings which are signaling that European nationalism is again on the rise as the spread of Islamism throughout Europe is leaving many host countries severely concerned about the growing threat to their identities.
At first many thought that these concerns were prevalent only amongst fringe extremists like the British National Party in England, the party of Jean Marie Le Penn in France, and Jorg Haider in Austria, but now the political landscape is shifting rapidly. In the Netherlands 1.4 million voters made the anti Islamist party of Geert Wilders the 3rd largest party with 27 seats in parliament and they are now playing an active role in the governing of the country. In France it is now illegal to wear a burqa in public, and new mosque minarets may not be built in Switzerland.
About a year ago, I asked British MP Dennis McShane and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks the following question:
Is it possible that the failure of the mainstream British parties to face the growing infiltration of Islamist influence into public representative bodies is causing the BNP to gain momentum, because the British street feels they will address this issue better?
Whilst McShane denied that there was any correlation, the Chief Rabbi answered as follows:
“We will know when the results of the June 4th European elections come out. It may be that for the first time there will be BNP members elected to the European parliament, if so that will send a signal throughout Britain. The government in Britain has realized over time that it must not appease the radicals but must confront them, and there has been a significant shift in government policy since 9/11 and 7/7.
“However, I think if there are BNP members voted in at the European parliament, and the current guess is that there may be 2 or more elected, then that suddenly puts far right politics in Britain into the mainstream, where it has not been since the 1930’s and that will send signals to all the parties.”
As expected at the time, there are now two BNP representatives in the European parliament.
So where should the Jew stand in all of this? Although some may say that Jews are better off refraining from taking a position, I would venture to say that if our reason d’être as Jews is to act as the moral conscience of the world, we should certainly fight for what is right in this situation as well.
What makes it so complicated for Jews is that on one hand, we have been persecuted for so any years; laws that prohibited our religious freedoms have arisen in almost every generation in some form or another. Some even compare the sentiments that are being expressed by Europeans towards Islam today as being similar to the concern of Pharaoh in Egypt when the Hebrews were multiplying rapidly, and therefore Jews should defend religious freedoms at all cost.
On the other hand some may argue that Islamism is the greatest threat to the Jewish State and to religious freedoms everywhere, as in today’s world Nazi Anti Semitism of the vitriolic brand is rampant in Arab countries and as a consequence perhaps Jews should take a stand against Islamism.
In this conundrum, where it seems that religion and freedom begin to overlap it is important to be able to define borders. When religion is in the realm of the individual its tenets must be defended at all costs, but when it makes forays into the political, defined as ‘social relations involving authority or power’ or the criminal, this is when steps must be taken to ensure that the common good is protected.
Jews have always strived to be upstanding citizens of their host countries, as demanded by Jewish law which says, “The law of the land is the law.” Jews wanted nothing more than to be the best Egyptian and German citizens and only asked for their religious freedoms, never attempting forays into the criminal or political. The only exclusively Jewish political movement, Zionism, strove to seek autonomy in a different country, in Israel, never challenging the local authorities. Jews always worked towards the betterment of their local leaders, aimed to be financially independent and always contribute to society.
Those who are concerned about the spread of Islamism, would do well to observe carefully, and compartmentalize its activities. Whilst individual freedoms must be protected, as soon as the line is crossed into the domain of the political or criminal, Jews should support local leaders in enforcing the boundaries of religion, and preserving the nationalistic integrity or our adopted governments.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at [email protected]