Norway: Muslim activist demands complete rejection of antisemitism
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Syrian-Norwegian Sara Azmeh Rasmussen is upset about an Arabic book, which she says has been subsidized by Saudi Arabia. According to Azmeh Rasmussen's translation, the book is called "The Jewish attackers - and their country Israel". She says the contents are just as bad as Hitler's antisemitism.
The age-old lies about a Jewish world-wide conspiracy are being distributed. By showing up, just like that, Azmeh Rasmussen found a section where Jews are mocked as insidious, treacherous, greedy and sneaky and where Jew-hatred is explained through those Jewish characteristics. Together with Koran verses and religious explanations, written by a scholar.
The Islamic Council is in the same building with the mosque and bookshop. General Secretary Shoaib Sultan denied in Dagsnytt 18 Monday evening any responsibility for the bookshop and mosque. But Sara Azmeh Rasmussen thinks the Islamic Council can't just shut its eyes to the literature which everybody going to the council offices passes by. The book is still for sale, for 55 kroner.
Azmeh Rasmussen arrived from Syria in 1995. She doesn't want to talk about her own history with antisemitism. But to the question from Vårt Land she says that she feels ashamed and thinks it's so serious that she wants to thoroughly deal with it.
For several years she'd planned to write a master's thesis on how Jews are portrayed in schoolbooks in Syria and Egypt. For personal reasons, she had to put those plans aside. The last few years she repeatedly tried to write a column on the subject. But unfortunately, she says, she hadn't managed to free up enough time to do the thorough job that is required.
She says that additionally there's an emotional barrier, since it will activate a history she's not proud of.
Jew-hatred is strong is Syria, and school assignments and university build a hostile image of Jews. She says that the educational system and the media are two of the most important sources for Jew-hatred in the Middle East.
She says the Jews are portrayed as a warlike collective. They're not seen individually. Al-Jazeera and other media aren't necessarily so obviously anti-Jewish, but they only show Jews are military conquerors. They don't show any other Jewish face. She says that as far as she knows, they've never interviewed, for example, a Jewish author about a book.
When Azmeh Rasmussen came to Norway, it was the first she saw a regular Jew - at an adult education class in Oslo. She says it was a shock. He was a pleasant and kind man, and she had to rethink her entire world view.
Today she believes that all Muslims, whether they believe in God or not, should without reservation reject the harassment and hatred that Jewish school-children get from Muslim children. Azmeh Rasmussen says this is also 'caring for Muslims'.
Sara Azmeh Rasmussen burned her hijab on Women's Day last year. She sees herself as a cultural Muslim, and therefore is still a 'voice from within', though she has lost her faith.
She says she doesn't want to heat up the atmosphere against Muslims. "My point is that if we don't respect others, it weakens our own credibility when we Muslims demand to be respected as a minority. Jew-hatred also prevents us from developing in a humanistic and democratic direction."
In NRK's Dagsnytt 18 on Monday evening, General Secretary Sultan denounced the hatred Jewish students deal with. Azmeh Rasmussen is looking for clearer language.
She says she doesn't doubt that Sultan meant what he said, but she doesn't want any 'buts'. Sultan dragged in Israeli policies. She's also critical of Israeli policies, but Israeli policies don't have anything to do with the harassment and hate of Jewish schoolchildren. These are young people who can be injured for life due to what they're subjected to, and she's disappointed that Sultan wasn't crystal clear about it.
The reports of teachers on Jew-hatred in the classroom and the antisemitic book come on top of Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qardawi appearance on Al Jazeera last year in which he praised the Holocaust and thanked Hitler for punishing the Jews.
Azmeh Rasmussen says she heard it in Arabic, and that there was no doubt regarding what he said.
Source: Vårt Land (Norwegian)