Muslims divided on manifesto against ‘new anti-Semitism’

Reactions to the Parisien‘s publication of a “manifesto against the new anti-Semitism” came swiftly. The piece was signed by 300 signatories, who denounced growing anti-Semitism brought about by “Islamist radicalization.” Written by Philippe Val, the former director of Charlie Hebdo, the text denounces an “insidious ethnic cleansing” in some neighborhoods. “In our recent history, eleven Jews have been murdered – and some tortured – for being Jews by radical Islamists,” they wrote. “10% of Jewish citizens in Ile-de-France – that is to say about 50,000 people – have recently been forced to move because they were no longer safe in some areas,” denounces the text’s signatories, including Nicolas Sarkozy, three former prime ministers, and artists such as Charles Aznavour or Francoise Hardy and religious leaders, Mgr. Joseph Doré, Chief Rabbi Chaim Korsia and Imam Hassen Chalghoumi.

“We ask that the Qur’anic verses calling for the killing and punishment of Jews, Christians and unbelievers be rendered obsolete by theological authorities, as were the inconsistencies of the Bible and the Catholic anti-Semitism abolished by Vatican II.”

We do not ask our country’s Muslim authorities to review the Qur’an, because it is written directly by the Prophet,” explained Luc Ferry, former Minister of Education, who signed the piece. Rather, he hopes they can “provide a different interpretation of the sacred text so as to question verses that call for murder and hatred.”

“We must set the record straight and review the exegesis of the Qur’an, because it is an interpretation that dates back to the 9th century,” said Mohamed Guerroumi, a practicing Muslim and interreligious dialogue activist in Nantes, who signed the text. “Sura 9 is very violent, Jews or disbelievers are considered enemies of Muslims. This is what is currently taught to young Muslims in France.”

This vision is different from that of Tareq Oubrou, imam at the Great Mosque of Bordeaux, who did not sign the piece. “To generalize the idea that the Qur’an calls for murder is madness,” he said. “There are many things in the Qur’an that are not applicable today because they are related to the context of the time. One can not be anti-Semitic when one is Muslim: two thirds of the prophets of Islam are Jews,” he added.

Oubrou is writing his own piece, which will be “signed by many imams of France”. Among his supporters is Kamel Kabtane, rector of the Grand Mosque of Lyon. “It is terrorism that must be fought,” he said. “Islam is a religion of peace. Those who kill other people in the name of Islam are thugs, young people from the banlieues who do not know anything about the Qur’an,” he added.

The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris Dalil Boubakeur denounced the “unfair and delusional trial” of French Muslims as a result of the publication. “It presents the obvious risk of pitting religious communities among themselves,” the Mosque said in a recent statement.

“French citizens of Muslim faith, the majority of whom are committed to Republican values, have not waited [for] this platform (…) to denounce and fight anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism in all its forms for decades.”

President of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekira, condemned a “nauseating and macabre” debate on Islam and called on the signatories to stop “overwhelming Islam and Muslims.”

The president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Ahmet Ogras, judged the piece as “nonsense, and off-topic. The only thing that we adhere to is that we must all work together to fight anti-Semitism.”

“To say that the Qur’an calls for murder is very violent and an absurdity!” said Tareq Oubrou, imam of the great mosque of Bordeaux. “The Qur’an is originally in Arabic. I think those who signed the manifesto read a translation, an interpretation. It shows a lack of religious culture. Any sacred text is violent, even the Gospel!”

Others were more supportive. “It is radical Islam that is targeted in this manifesto, it is not the Muslims, who have quite an interest in coming together in this process,” said Francis Kalifat, president of the Crif (Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France). “The enlightened Muslims of our country must put things back in order and not take the sacred texts literally, but contextualize them.”


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