Opinion: Why don't the Jews join us?

Opinion: Why don't the Jews join us?

An orthodox Jewish reader once asked me why Islam-critics criticize EVERYTHING about Islam. Why do they criticize the religious aspects and don't just focus on violent Islamic ideology? 

Keep this question in mind as you read this.

A recent article in The Daily Telegraph brings a story which is repeated in various ways across Europe.  Malmö, Sweden, is the city with one of the highest proportion of Muslim residents, and its small Jewish community is fleeing an increase in Muslim antisemitic attacks.

Various anti-Islam, Islam-critical, counter-Jihad etc blogs and activists expect Jews to stand with them against the Muslims.  But Jews don't always do so, and, sometimes, for good reason.     

I do not deny the threat of Muslim antisemitism.  But why put the Jews on the spot?  When anti-Islam protesters wave Israeli flags, they might want to show that they're not antisemitic.  They might want to make the Muslims mad.  But what they're actually doing is focusing the hatred at the Jews.  The Jews are a tiny minority in Europe, and one which has been through quite a lot.  Why put them on the spot more than anybody else, and certainly more than any other endangered minority?

On the other hand, I do not think the only threat comes from Muslim antisemitism.

Jews face various threats, one of them being Muslim antisemitism.  Aside from that, Jews also suffer from Christian antisemitism, general European foreigner-rejection, and the possibility of genocide by proxy with the goading of the far left.  Even if they would be accepted with open arms, Jews face two much more serious threats.

The first is the threat of assimilation.  It's been called the 'Silent Holocaust'.  As Jews become more and more like their non-Jewish neighbors, as they reject ancient religious traditions and accept liberal values instead, they face the prospect of losing their Jewish identity.     

And now, another threat appears on the horizon.  Championed by the Islam-critics, European countries are starting to consider banning basic Jewish traditions.  Female modesty, boy's circumcision, kosher food, the sanctity of the Sabbath and Jewish holidays - all are being put on the chopping block.     

I've written this in the past, and I will say it again: if circumcision and kosher food would be criminalized in Europe, Orthodox Jewry would disappear from Europe almost immediately.  The core of Jewish life would disappear completely.  Non-religious Jews would stay on and keep on being Jewish, but statistics show us that their grand-grandchildren have a very small chance of identifying as Jews and an almost zero chance of being Jewish according to Jewish law.  If there would be no religious Jewish community, they would have nothing to return to, either.

Judaism is not just a faith.  Jewish religious law is a way of life.  It is aimed at ensuring that Jews remain a separate, un-assimilable group among the nations.   As the Book of Esther describes the Jews: 'There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king's laws.. "  In the Biblical story, the Jews face physical destruction, but today they face an additional threat, that of having their culture disappear.

And now, as has been the case throughout much of their history, Jews are finding themselves once again caught between a rock and hard place.  When the French get all worked up about a restaurant deciding to sell halal food, when Europeans get upset at Turkish PM Erdogan for urging German and Belgian Turks to integrate but not to assimilate, when the Swiss and Austrians pass laws on what a house of worship should look like, what does that tell the Jews? 

Are Europeans fighting violent Muslim ideology, or are they fighting any religious community which refuses to assimilate?  Must Jews be forced to choose between physical attacks and spiritual decline?   

The Jews of Malmö might be leaving now because of antisemitic attacks, but they would leave even faster if Sweden would prevent them from practicing their religion.  These questions are not theoretical.  When elections in Belgium fell on a Jewish holiday, Orthodox Jews were fined for refusing to show up for poll-station duty.  Politicians in both Sweden and Switzerland are discussing banning circumcision and ritual slaughter.  Various countries are discussing banning head-covering for women.   The irony is that Islam can be much more flexible than Judaism when it comes to religious requirements.  Ban circumcision, and Muslims won't have a major problem, but Jews would be forced out. 

When you criticize Islam for being more than just a faith, for seeing itself as a nation, for having religious courts, for having laws about the most mundane aspects of daily life, for having demands on modesty, for having ritual slaughter, and for circumcising young boys: Keep in mind that Judaism has all that and more.

So what really bothers you?

No comments: