Monday, December 8, 2008

We have a problem

The Wall Street Journal carries an interesting article, translated from the German, about the activity of the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism in Berlin. The Center's introductory paragraph is entirely praiseworthy:
The Center for Research on Antisemitism, founded in 1982, is the only scholarly institution conducting interdisciplinary researches and teachings focussing on prejudices and their consequences like antisemitism, Antiziganism, xenophobia and racism.

The interdisciplinary research on antisemitism is supplemented by research on related areas such as German-Jewish history and the Holocaust.
As it happens, there have been numerous reports in various European countries that showed that Anti-Semitism was growing again, its sources are Islamic countries like Iran, the more extremist Islamist organizations around the world and certain left-wing groups who have decided to become Anti-Semitic in their sympathy with the "oppressed" Muslims of the world. They rarely talk about the Muslims that are oppressed by Muslim governments (such as Iran).

It seems that the Center has decided not to concentrate on these matters but to produce a report on growing Islamophobia in which, according to Matthias Küntzel, no difference is drawn between Muslims in general and political Islam or, as we refer to it, Islamism. It would appear that criticizing Islamists who want to destroy Israel, call for the murder of various opposing people and groups, frequently carry out those murders and generally want to destroy Western countries and their culture is the same as being Islamophobic, which is no different from being Anti-Semitic.
In taking up the fashionable vocabulary of Islamophobia and equating hostility to Muslims with hostility to Jews, the center also risks undermining the most important current task in dealing with anti-Semitism: studying and fighting hostility to Jews in the Islamic world, where anti-Semitism has reached an unprecedented level.

For example, one of the authors in the latest Yearbook, Jochen Müller, proposes a "revision of politics and history teaching" in German schools. Because the Holocaust has no "central meaning for migrants from the Arabic-Muslim world," one should consider whether "the colonial period and its consequences" would not be a better subject for "appropriate 'Holocaust education'" among Muslim students in Germany. This is a remarkable idea given the degree of Holocaust denial among many young Muslims.

Another article in the Yearbook, "Hostility to Islam on the World Wide Web," goes even further. Instead of criticizing anti-Semitism among Muslims, the author criticizes those who accuse Muslims of anti-Semitism. That's because such accusations provide "an apparently rationally based argument for rejecting an entire collective," writes Yasemin Shooman, a staff member at the center. Here, attempts to fight "hostility to Islam" threaten to turn into tolerance of anti-Semitic attitudes.

While the Berlin center concentrates on world-wide "anti-Islamic resentments," its Yearbook says not a word about the anti-Semitism of the Iranian mullahs. Thus, it hardly does justice to the demands for contemporary research on anti-Semitism. Never before has the elimination of the Jewish state been so loudly propagated. Never before has an influential power made Holocaust denial the center of its foreign policy, as Iran has today. Never before has a U.N. forum been misused for an anti-Semitic speech, as it was on Sept. 23 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticized the speech as "blatantly anti-Semitic."
Presumably, one must not talk about Islamism in connection with the recent atrocities in Bombay, either. Or is that allowed?

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