Jews and Muslims in France, Britain and seven other countries across Europe are poised to deliver a clear message in commemoration of Europe Day. They stand in united opposition to prejudiced and racist appeals being increasingly injected into European body politic by extremist political movements and also oppose pandering to those movements by some political leaders who in recent months made speeches lamenting the failure of multiculturalism in their respective countries.
On Sunday, French Jews and Muslims gathered at the Centre Communautaire Juif de Paris under the aegis of the Amitié Judeo-Musulmane de France to speak out together against the rise of the Front National in France and to vow that not one French Jew or Muslim should support this party in next year’s presidential elections. On Monday, at the Aziziye Mosque in London, British Muslims and Jews joined together under the aegis of the Children of Abraham organization to speak out in favor of what they term ‘moderate multiculturalism’, which they call “an essential component of a Britain in which immigrant groups can be successfully integrated into British society without being assimilated.”
These events kicked off a month of similar actions in other countries such as Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Ukraine, marking Europe Day (9 May). They will culminate in Brussels on 30 May, when top Jewish and Muslim leaders will present a joint declaration to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, stating: “We resolve to work together to counter efforts to demonize or marginalize either of our communities. Bigotry against any Jew or any Muslim is an attack on all Muslims and all Jews. We are united in our belief in the dignity of all peoples… We recognize that the issues of identity, integration, multiculturalism and immigration are complex ones which need to be addressed properly and in consultation with the minority communities in Europe. However, there must be no tolerance for the demonization of entire faith communities.”
This Europe-wide interfaith initiative was set in motion last December at the first Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders in Brussels. It is modelled on a similar cooperative effort in the United States organized by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Co-sponsors are the European Jewish Congress, the FFEU, the Muslim Jewish Conference, the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations, and the World Jewish Congress.
According to Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the FFEU, “The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, together with our partners, is gratified to be standing in support of joint actions by Muslims and Jews in nine countries across Europe during the month of May, against extremism in all forms, and opposing racism and prejudice against Muslims and Jews. Our purpose is to make clear that Jews and Muslims will be there for each other if either is being unfairly attacked and will stand united in support of principles of democracy and pluralism that will ensure a decent future for all Europeans.”
The Amitié Judeo-Musulmane de France – which is sponsored by the CRIF, the Consistoire and the Grande Mosquée de Paris – has become the main vehicle for Jews and Muslims in France to strengthen their relationship and take common political stands. Rabbi Michel Serfaty, president of the AJMF said: “We are holding this event to make unmistakably clear that the Jewish and Muslim citizens of France stand united in opposition to the National Front. Despite claims to the contrary, Marine Le Pen has not changed one iota the racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic politics of her father. As representatives of the major French Jewish organizations and of the Great Mosque of Paris, we declare that not one Jew or Muslim should cast a ballot for the Front National in next year’s presidential elections.”