German Muslims Show That Fear Of Rising Anti-Semitism Is Misplaced

04/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Berlin -- There is fear that anti-Semitism is rising among Europe's Muslims, transforming Europe into the new center of hate against Israel. But Europe's 56 million Muslims are an exceedingly heterogeneous group, and the situation varies greatly from one Muslim
community to another.

The case of Muslims in Germany, for example, is very different from those in other parts of Europe. Although they are a diverse group -- including Sunnis, Shiites, Alevites and cultural Muslims -- more than 90 percent are of Turkish heritage, which may help explain the relatively good relations between Muslims and Jews in Germany.

Anti-Semitism exists in Turkey and has even been growing in recent years. But it has been much less part of the culture in Turkey than elsewhere. Jewish communities have been respected in Turkish society since the beginning of the 16th century when Turkey embraced Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal. Even as late as the 1930s, the
Turkish leader Kemal Atatürk, who is still widely revered by most Turks, welcomed Jewish refugees escaping from Nazi terror in Europe.

Turkey has also had a special relationship with Israel. It was the first Muslim-majority country to formally recognize Israel, and has played an active role in mediating between Israel and Syria. Although there is certainly widespread sympathy for their Palestinian
co-religionists, military and economic relations between Israel and Turkey remain strong despite anger over Israel's actions in the recent Gaza conflict.

Recognition of Germany's historic responsibility for the crimes of the Shoah (Holocaust) is the basis for the special relationship between Germany and Israel. Muslims who have integrated into German society, and regard Germany as their home, are no different from other Germans in this manner; they adopt a sense of responsibility for German history in its entirety, without cherry-picking, even if they arrived in Germany after the Third Reich. It is interesting to note that a group of German Muslims organized festivities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of State of Israel.

None of this implies that these German Muslims should not have the right to criticize the State of Israel. During the recent war in Gaza, the overwhelming opinion in this community was that Israel had been extremely heavy-handed, and that the violence against women and children was simply indefensible -- an opinion that I personally share.
But it is crucial to understand that this criticism does not bring Israel's right to exist into question, nor does it in any way reflect anti-Semitic sentiments.

Of course there are anti-Semitic tendencies in the Turkish community in Germany, too. Those who are not integrated into German society are especially susceptible to nationalistic and other radical ideologies. The issue of successful integration -- learning
the German language and adopting basic German values (while keeping their own cultural heritage) -- is also particularly mirrored in the quality of relations with German Jews. As a rule: the better the integration, the less rancor vis-à-vis Israel.

Integration is the best remedy against anti-Jewish sentiment by Muslims in Germany. How the majority population deals with this issue is extremely important. Integration is not a one-way street and many problems need to be tackled. These include the fact that large
portions of the native German population and decision-makers still have not yet fully accepted the fact that Germany is now indeed a country of immigrants. Racism remains an everyday issue. It impacts Turkish immigrants in particular and has been on the increase since 9/11, which many Germans have used as an excuse to camouflage their
racism and fear of Islam.

Although anti-Jewish sentiment by Muslims is less prevalent among Turkish Muslims in Germany than in other European Muslim communities, it nevertheless does exist. The key to battling this phenomenon is fuller integration of Muslim communities into German society. Our political leaders need to welcome immigrants. They should say:
Immigration, religious and cultural diversity are our past and our future. We want to open our society to immigrants and would like our immigrants to open themselves to our society. And there is a second important point to make: the main source of anti-Semitism is in the middle of the German society. I do have the impression that some
of those complaining about Muslim anti-Semites find it rather convenient to focus on this aspect instead of facing the problematic reality we face in Germany: 60 years after the Shoa hate against Jews remains popular among Germans, no matter what religion they
adhere to.

Mehmet Daimagüler was born in Germany of Turkish immigrant parents. Educated at the Universities of Bonn, Harvard and Yale - he was chosen as a 2007 "Yale World Fellow", he was the first parliamentarian advisor of Turkish origin in the German Federal Parliament and also the first elected Muslim in the national board of a German Party.

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