Saturday, September 12, 2015

Combating bigotry in Europe

I have noted in the past how religious extremism is on the rise around the globe, which is making the lives of most minorities difficult. It needs to be defeated. So, does fascism.

It is worth recalling that fascism happens when a culture fracturing along social lines is encouraged to unite against a perceived external threat. Today’s Myanmar embodies this sickness where Buddhists are encouraged to eliminate ‘external threats’ – posed by Rohingya and other religious minorities - so as to defend the ‘Buddhist way of life’.

Europe wants to be a purely Christian continent, turning its clock back to the 15th century when Muslims and Jews were exterminated from the Iberian Peninsula. Her leaders are against diluting of the Christian population in a continent that has been a home to many races, castes and creeds since at least her colonization of the other continents.

In spite of the slow but steady changes in the ground with demography, especially after the collapse of the 'old' order and dawning of the 'new' order with the emergence of newly curved out nation states in the second half of the 20th century, Europe has been trying to maintain her so-called uniqueness - Christian character. It was no accident, therefore, that she had tried to overlook the genocidal crimes of her co-religionists in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s against the Bosnians and the Kosovars, who are Muslims. Some five decades before that human tragedy in the Balkans, she tried to ignore the plight of the Jews and other minorities in the Nazi-fascist-infested Axis of Evil, led then by Hitler's Germany.

Millions had to die before the European 'conscience' woke up to say enough was enough and to come to the aid of the suffering masses and stop the holocaust of the Jews inside Europe. But then rather than solving the problem justly, which would have required creating a Jewish state inside Germany or Western Europe, punishing the offending state of Germany and her criminal partners in the Axis, Europe chose to outsource her problem to the Middle East.

Soon after the Second World War, the new state of Israel was created in May of 1948, uprooting some 700,000 innocent Palestinians who were indigenous people of the soil that had nothing to do with the crimes of the European Christians against the European Jews. It did not matter that the Jewish ownership of land inside Palestine before the Partition Plan was only 2.5 percent, the remainder 97.5% being held by the Palestinian Arabs - Muslims and Christians. In the new plan, approved by the Christian West, the Palestinians were allotted only 44% of the pie and the remainder 56% was allotted to the Jews - mostly European Zionist migrants who had settled in the land in recent years.

The rest is history. True to the wishes of her Zionist founder Theodor Herzl, Israel had become a rampart of the West in the East, especially the Middle East. With her better equipped soldiers and volunteers, soon after the declaration of her independence, or rather unholy or illegitimate birth, Israel terrorized Palestinians by killing hundreds and soon expanded her territory to 78% relegating the Palestinians to 22% of the original territory, leading to the forced migration of so many. In 1967, thanks again to the western material and technical assistance, the Zionist state was able to annex all the remaining territories, transforming itself to an apartheid state with millions of indigenous Palestinians who must be governed by its laws and regulations. 

The once tormented and persecuted people have become today’s tormentors and persecutors! And sadly, they like their newly found strength and want to keep it that way.

It won't be an exaggeration to state that most of the wars ravaging the region today owe it one way or another to Israel. And yet, her Zionist leaders remain committed to expanding the war zones. They want to open a new frontier in Iran

With wars becoming more like the norms these days rather than exceptions, the beneficiaries - mostly the European and American manufacturers and merchants - have been all those involved with weapons that kill. The losers have been ordinary civilians who must now find a new home to start over their life.

In spite of the huge monetary benefits drawn from the war zones and the enormous contribution of the immigrant communities – new and old - many parts of Europe remain locked in the past and are opposed to multi-culture brought in by tens of millions of non-Europeans. They like the Indian masala and Bangladeshi curry, but not the people that liven up their God-awful cuisine with some actual flavor. They like to sell weapons that kill and turn territories uninhabitable but are averse to refugees from war-torn countries crossing over. They can’t have it both ways!

Fascism is resurrecting while many Europeans are seemingly unaware of its deadly penetration in their society. They are behaving like a frog put in a pan of cold water that is slowly heated. Unaware of what’s happening, the frog will sit there quite calmly until it boils to death. Creeping cultural change is like that; it is hard to spot when you are living inside it.

Sitting in the slowly boiling pool of cultural bigotry, so mesmerized are the Europeans today that they don’t find any fault with many of the newer laws - sometimes packaged to protect ‘European way of life’ or ‘standard of living’ - passed by their fascist leaders.

In recent years, repeated attempts have been made to impose restrictions on circumcisions (religiously mandated for Jewish and Muslim males) and ritual animal slaughter (when the name of God is invoked by Jews and Christians) in the EU countries. Many Jews and Christians find such restrictions a serious challenge to the practice of their religions, and have now found a common ground to unite.

Jewish and Muslim leaders in Europe have announced the establishment of the Muslim-Jewish Leadership Council (MJLC), the first joint council of its kind to fight for religious freedom on the continent, with its founding conference taking place this week in Vienna. Participating in the MJLC are the Conference of European Rabbis, the World Islamic Relief Organization, the Islamic Council of the Republic of Germany and the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).

The initiators of the council said that it was an initial platform from which leaders of the two religions would work together to confront EU institutions and governments in order to promote understanding and respect, and enable the exchange of information essential to local and national religious communities' needs, concerns, and challenges.

It is a good initiative, which deserves praise. What is also encouraging is that in its first press release, MJLC addressed the most urgent issue on the continent, and said: "The European refugees are denied shelter, medical assistance, transit and transport. This crisis contradicts the values of human dignity upon which a united Europe is based. Due to inaction, refugees have become the victims of hardened criminals, who are responsible for a number of shocking deaths."

"We call upon policymakers in Europe to take action in order to handle these refugees decently and humanely while they wait for a safe haven. At the same time, we commend the private efforts of many individuals and religious communities to support the refugees. We call on the interior ministers of the European Union to meet on September 14 to take the practical and urgent steps needed to end this crisis."

As reported in the YNews, Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis, and co-founder of MJLC, said that it will serve, among other things, as a resource for authoritative and trusted information with a legal basis upon which rabbis and imams – the religious clerics - can act: "Together we will be able to develop an innovative and creative approach when dealing with EU institutions and governments in Europe, that will ensure the continued observance of our religion."

"The Council will work to gain the confidence of young people through appropriate public relations that will bring prosperity in Europe - in tandem with a life of faith and meaning," said Goldschmidt.

The founders also said that it will promote building bridges between communities in the future, engage in education and initiate joint publications on issues of religion and current affairs in Europe and the world.

Ibrahim al Ziit, former director general of the World Islamic Relief Organization, said that "the Jewish and Muslim communities have a common heritage and a shared history. The Muslim-Jewish Leadership Council is a necessity since we have witnessed repeated attempts to limit the freedom of religion." "As believers, we must fight for the right of religious minorities to religious freedom. If we stand united, we will be better able to protect our rights. But if we are detached, we will lose our right to fully observe the commandments of our religion."

Fahed Abu-Nasser, Director General of KAICIID, who hosted the founding convention, called it "a great honor" and said that his organization was proud to take part in establishing the authority of both Muslims and Jews to fight over the religious rights of minorities, and to promote interfaith dialogue in Europe.

It is a good start for Europe which once sowed the seed of division – exploiting one son of Abraham to fight against the other. She needs to understand that her ‘way of life’ is not threatened by migration or multi-culture, as decades of research have shown that the latter actually enriches a society. Where would our modern society be without Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, the son of a Syrian Muslim immigrant Dr. Abdul Fattah Jandali, from Homs, now ravaged by war?




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