Judaism as role model for integration (or assimilation?)

interesting article by H.D.S. Greenway in the Boston Globe. I bring highlights below:

After 9/11, and especially after the van Gogh murder, some Dutchmen began to say harsh things about their Muslim neighbors. Some mosques were vandalized. One of the first to defend the Muslims of Holland was Awraham Soetendorp, 63-year-old rabbi and founder of Holland's Jewish Institute for Human Values, who has done as much to reach out to Muslims as any cleric in Europe.

Some Muslims I have talked to believe they have something to learn from Jews, who for the most part are better organized in their dealings with governments, national and local, and have been more successful in gaining official recognition and space for their religion than Muslims.

Apart from organizational skills, the Jews of Europe have something else to inspire Muslim immigrants.

For 2,000 years, Jews have stubbornly maintained their faith and their community under tremendous pressure to assimilate into the broader Christian world. For that they paid a terrible price. Over the centuries, frightful persecutions and pogroms have afflicted the Jews of Europe, culminating in the unparalleled horrors of the 20th century. Yet they have hung onto their faith and their traditions.

There is still anti-Semitism in Europe, some of it coming from Muslims agitated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But organized state anti-Semitism is a thing of the past, and Muslims in Europe wish to emulate the status that Jews have achieved.

As Soetendorp says: "The Jewish community has been established in the Netherlands since the 17th century, and, although it has not always been easy, the Jews have shown, on the whole, that they can keep their identity but remain good and loyal citizens of our country. The stronger you are in your own identity, the more open you are to others."

This has resonance for European Muslims who want to keep their faith and traditions, and yet be loyal citizens, in the secular countries they now call home. For you can sense the pressure throughout Europe these days. Why don't these people assimilate? If they don't want to be like us, why do they come here?

This article refers to what Judaism has achieved through years of persecution, but it does not talk about what Judaism has given up to achieve that goal. Judaism has sacrificed its national aspects in order to assimilate into European culture. It did not only achieve recognition just by having Jews living on European soil. If Islam wants to achieve the same status, it will need to give up its national character as well. (See my previous article: Is Muslim Integration in Europe possible?).

Source: The Boston Globe (English)

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