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Europe: ‘Banning circumcision would eliminate presence of Jewish life in Europe’ | French Jewish leader


“The problem is the implicit aggressive nature of these ‘traditional’ religious symbols… they are a way of saying to the wider public ‘what you are doing doesn’t interest me’.”

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | EU Desk
Source/Credit: European Jewish Press
By Shari Ryness | November 29, 2012

BRUSSELS (EJP) — Europeans shouldn’t be under any illusions about the true product of legislation banning the practice of religious circumcision in its members states, said Richard Prasquier, President of CRIF, the umbrella representative group of  Jewish institutions in France, at a seminar Thursday at the European Parliament in Brussels.

Describing recent legal attacks on religious practices such as ritual slaughter and circumcision as “surprising”, he told the inter-communal dialogue on religious freedom: “Certain traditions denote unity and if Europe continues promoting laws against Jews they will simply leave Europe”.

Prasquier formed a cross-religious panel of speakers at the conference alongside the Imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, a noted inter-religious advocate,  who concurred: “If we prohibit religious practice, we would give rise to radicalism seen in Egypt. Instead of prohibiting these practices, the EU should ban foreign intervention to stop radical incitement,” he argued.

Speaking of a recent unprecedented visit of a delegation of 17 Imams he led to Israel as part of an inter-faith dialogue, Chalghoumi said the group had been touched by a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, as all of them insisted that “had they lived at that time, they would have risked their own lives to save children” who went on to perish in the Holocaust.

Describing this as the “humanist approach”, he said it showed a message for Europe, that “we are all citizens together”. “We are proud citizens of Europe but can still hold on to the heritage of our country of origin,” he added, as he said that lapsed Muslims often looked to Islam as a way of rediscovering their roots, but instead became indoctrinated “finding the Israeli-Arab conflict, a political dialogue imported from Iran and Qatar”.

Talking of his own country, where the largest Muslim community in Europe lives, he insisted prejudice is not “a result of religion, it comes from a poor political stance, adding: “French citizens should not import conflict (from the Middle East), they should export our friendships.”

“We want to combat interference and distinguish between religion and politics,” he added.

“To indoctrinate someone to become a fanatic in the 21th Century has been shown not to be very difficult,” added Prasquier. “To follow the other trajectory, to stop someone from becoming indoctrinated, is very difficult indeed,” he said, invoking the example of his recent one-on-one interview with the elder brother of radical Toulouse gunman Mohammed Merah, who revealed to him his brother had been indoctrinated from birth to harbour anti-Semitism.

Slamming those who sought to make a victim of the indoctrinated, by attempting to “understand their values”, he insisted: “Those who think we should understand them (fanatics) contend that all values are alike.”

Prasquier meanwhile sought to differentiate between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, which he argued have increasingly been incorrectly used in the same breath to describe prejudice against a minority due to his heritage. “It should be prohibited to criticise Muslims because they’re Muslims, just as it should be prohibited to criticise Jews because they’re Jews”, he contended.

However, he argued, criticising Islam, as denoted by the term Islamophobia, was a different phenomenon altogether. “The right to blasphemy should be preserved,” he insisted, adding that “it’s a tradition that, if not respected, would tamper with our freedom of religion.”

Extrapolating on the phenomenon of extremist minorities promoting incitement, Brussels-based European Jewish Association (EJA) Director Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who organized the seminar, contended “there is nothing religious about hate”.

Whilst praising the EU’s founding principles for standing for the promotion of peace and tolerance across Europe, he cautioned that the “EU cannot truly feel proud of winning the Nobel Peace Prize whilst Poland has joined a list of countries prohibiting freedom of religion, in attempting to legislate against religious ritual slaughter”.

Moving on to intolerance towards displaying and wearing religious symbols in public in many EU states, such as France, whose “laic” (secular) laws enforce the separation of church and state, Prasquier contended that it was “important to assert the rules of the (French) Republic”.

“The problem is the implicit aggressive nature of these ‘traditional’ religious symbols,” he argued, adding that “they are a way of saying to the wider public ‘what you are doing doesn’t interest me’.”

Insisting that such laws were the product of “in-depth reflection” on the part of the state, he asserted “there are certain areas in which religious practice should be concealed”.

The Imam meanwhile contended that certain religious symbols “are not linked to freedom of religious practice, they are a tradition”. “In some cases, it’s provocative,” he argued, as he slammed the wearing of religious dress by school children which would facilitate the need for private Muslim schools.”

“Secularism is not anti-religious, in my view, but should it become so we will have to deal with it,” he added.

“Everything is possible if we take away the political manipulation of religion,” attested Chalghoumi, describing religion as “the heart”. Criticising fanatics for prioritising religious texts over human life, he concluded: “Human life is sacred and the most important thing.”

Read original post here: French Jewish leader: ‘Banning circumcision would eliminate presence of Jewish life in Europe’

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