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September 1, 2014 / 6 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘french’

Prerequisites for Muslim-Jewish Reconciliation

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

I appreciate the fact that this Jewish publication was willing to publish my article. I’m not sure how easy it would be for a Jewish pundit to get his or her work published in a Turkish, Egyptian or Iranian magazine. I believe it’s high time someone gave it a try.

History buffs among us know all too well that the best time for Jews over the past two millennia—ever since they were overcome by the force of the Roman empire following two bloody rebellions—was under the rule of the Arab caliphates, both in Spain and in North Africa. So much so, that Jewish sources refer to that time as “The golden age.”

The various Muslim caliphates, which began ruling a very large chunk of the known world in the 7th and 8th centuries, were driven by a single, fundamental, religious mission: to spread Islam. But their agenda for the pagans populating Asia, Africa and Europe was different from their agenda for the “peoples of the book,” followers of Christianity and Judaism. While, most often, the heathens were given no choice about conversion: you became Muslim or you died – Christians and Jews who refused to convert to Islam only had to endure a kind of second class citizenship, with different features in different locales.

It would be helpful to recall that while Jews in Muslim territories at the time were forced to wear articles of clothing that set them apart, and were forbidden to ride horses or use the main public sidewalks—a few miles up north, in Christian Europe, they were being raped, pillaged and burned alive on a steady basis. And while in Christian Europe Jews were blocked from most of the professions, under the caliphates their economic options were much more exciting, hence the term “golden age.”

While Jewish culture in Christian Europe centered almost strictly around the houses of study, with little evidence of a robust culture, in Spain and North Africa the Jews wrote songs and books of philosophy, and excelled as military generals and court politicians—in addition to their flourishing business as traders and bankers.

It is true that Islam had its low point even during that golden age, and every once in a while the mainstream in various provinces—for a variety of geopolitical and social reasons—would take on an ominous spirit of fanaticism and start harassing the “peoples of the books” with fanatical impatience and zeal, threatening their lives unless they converted. But even those waves of fanaticism are dwarfed by the pogroms and expulsions that marked the lives of Jews under Christian rule.

Indeed, the demise of the thriving Jewish culture in Spain came not under Muslim rule, but only after the Christian invasion of the late 1300s, which ended with the expelling of all the Jews of Spain and Portugal in 1492.

What followed was particularly grim for Islam. Just as the original Muslim invasion of the Middle East, North Africa and Southern Europe was enabled by the decline of the Roman Empire, so did was decline of the Caliphate an invitation to a new force, the great Ottoman Empire, to quickly overtake those same areas, and to push far north into Central Europe, only to be blocked, finally, at the gates of Vienna.

But something went wrong in Muslim history at that point. Historians will continue to argue over the precise reasons – the reality is that sometime around the Renaissance period, while Christian Europe began to emerge from its barbarism, to usher in an age of discoveries, inventions and the rise of the human spirit—at a high cost to many indigenous peoples on several continents—Islam began its sad and disheartening decline that set aside Muslims in general and Arabs in particular as the second class citizens of a developing world. Instead of setting the tone in science and scholarship, as it used to do in the middle ages, Islam was relegated to the position of a spectator in a game it could not hope to win.

We have a big problem with cognitive dissonance in most Arab countries, which are trying to be simultaneously Muslim and modern. By “modern” I mean doing all the things a normal Western society takes for granted: publishing books, making movies, starting businesses, dining in restaurants, driving cars, writing laws to serve the community, delivering state services. Every single one of these aspects of your life which you take for granted represent a potential clash with Islam.

France: “Secularism Charter” in Every School

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

“Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.” — Philippe Tournier, Secretary General, French Teachers Union.

The French government has announced a plan to post a “secularism charter” in all public schools in France by the end of September.

The document — which is to appear in a prominent location in all of the 55,000 public schools in France — would serve to remind students and teachers of a list of secular principles underpinning the separation of mosque and state.

Although the initiative has enjoyed a generally positive reception, many observers are saying they doubt the Socialist government of French President François Hollande will have the political willpower actually to enforce secular principles in French schools — with or without a charter.

This skepticism stems from the fact that Muslim children constitute an increasingly large proportion of the 10 million students in the French public school system — and because Muslim parents make up an increasingly important voting bloc in French politics. Muslims, in fact, cast the deciding vote that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace in May 2012.

French Education Minister Vincent Peillon, who announced the plan in an interview with the French daily newspaper L’Est Républicain on August 26, said, “Everyone is entitled to his opinion, but not to dispute lessons or to skip classes [for religious reasons]. The charter will be a reminder of [secular] principles. It will be posted in all schools in late September. The law provides for a moral and civic education that promotes freedom from judgment, the capacity to emancipate, and rights and duties. I want to see the return of those values of the [French] Republic in schools in 2013.”

Although the final content of the charter will not be made public until the middle of September, a draft of the list which contains a total of 17 paragraphs has been circulating since July 11.

The first section of the draft list is entitled “The Republic is Secular,” and consists of six rather straightforward paragraphs that mostly echo the French Constitution. Paragraph 2 of the draft, for example, states that, “France is a republic that is indivisible, secular, democratic and social. It ensures equality before the law, on the whole of its territory, for all citizens. It respects all creeds.”

According to Paragraph 3, “The secular Republic is based upon the separation of religion and state. The state is neutral with regard to religious or spiritual beliefs. There is no state religion.” Paragraph 4 states that “Secularism guarantees freedom of conscience for all. Everyone is free to believe or not to believe. It allows the free expression of his beliefs, respecting those of others within the limits of public order.” And so on.

The second section of the list, entitled “The School is Secular,” changes tack by directly confronting Muslim students who take to disrupting classes whenever they do not agree with their teachers on certain subjects.

Paragraph 14 states: “Lessons are secular. To ensure that students are as objectively open as possible to the diversity of worldviews as well as to the extent and accuracy of knowledge, no subject is a priori excluded from scientific and educational inquiry.”

According to Paragraph 15, “No student may invoke religious or political convictions to challenge and/or to prevent a teacher from teaching certain parts of the curriculum.” Paragraph 16 states that “the wearing of conspicuous symbols or dress by pupils as relates to their religious affiliation is prohibited in public schools.”

The draft charter also states that “the secular school offers students the conditions to forge their own personality, exercise their free will and learn about citizenship. It protects them from proselytizing and from any pressure that prevents them from making their own choices.”

Reactions to the announcement have been mixed, with some questioning if or how the measure will be enforced.

The Secretary General of the French Teachers Union, Philippe Tournier, told Radio Europe 1 that while he welcomed the secularism charter in principle, he worried about its implementation. “The intentions are quite positive, but the essential thing still remains: putting into force what [the charter] affirms,” he said. “Nothing could be worse than posting a secularism charter on the wall, and then the students see around them that what actually happens in school life is the exact opposite of what we tell them.”

News Prior to Halloween: PLO Chief Arafat to Rise From the Dead

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

News just in time for Halloween: deceased PLO terror chief Yasser Arafat will rise from the dead next month, being exhumed by criminal investigators from France to determine how he died, according to a report by the Associated Press.

French officials announced on Tuesday that they have reached an agreement with the Palestinian authority in which a Swiss investigative team would arrive in Ramallah and unearth the body.  They will then test his body to determine if polonium-210 – a deadly radioactive isotope found on Arafat’s clothes – was used to poison him.

Arafat died on the 25th of October from a massive brain bleed, but exhibited flu-like symptoms days before his death.

Theories as to his cause of death include AIDS, stomach cancer, cirrhosis, and poisoning.

French officials have refused to publicize information on Arafat’s final illness, citing privacy laws.

France Penalizes Boycott of Israeli Products

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Last May, the Cour de Cassation, the Supreme Court of France, ruled that calls for a boycott of Israeli products constitute discrimination and as such are illegal under French law.

The verdict was the final ruling in a legal battle that went on for years. On 9 July 2005, exactly seven years ago, the Palestinian Authority called for a worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign against the Jewish State. In February 2009, following the Gaza War in the winter of 2008-2009, several leftist and pro-Palestinian organizations in France convened to organize a French BDS campaign. The activists target French and international corporations that do business in Israel, French branches of Israeli companies, and supermarkets selling Israeli products.

Supermarkets are raided by commando units who block the entrances or storm the premises in order to remove the Israeli products or label them with stickers stating that Israel is an “apartheid state.” Often the raids are videotaped and posted on YouTube. The French revolutionary Left considers BDS to be a huge political success. The BDS actions attract a lot of support from Muslims youths from the suburbs surrounding the French cities. It is the first time since the 1960s and 70s that the French Left has been able to mobilize large numbers of youths.

BDS activists have succeeded in intimidating a number of supermarkets to remove Israeli products from their shelves, movie theaters to stop programming Israeli movies, and universities to cancel lectures by Israeli citizens. The lectures were boycotted simply because of their nationality and their Jewish religion; not for the opinions they personally might have held about Israeli politics.

Soon after the BDS raids began, the French Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l’Antisémitisme (National Bureau of Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism), a Jewish organization that was founded in 2002, started to lodge complaints against BDS at courts all over France. Sometimes the courts went along with the complaints, sometimes they did not.

In February 2010, the penal court of Bordeaux convicted Saquina Arnaud-Khimoun for labeling Israeli products with the sticker “Boycott Apartheid Israel.” The court ruled that she had “hindered the normal exercise of economic activities by making a distinction on the basis of nationality.” The French anti-discrimination act of 1981 prohibits “incitment to discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or a group of persons on the basis of descent, ethnicity and nationality or the fact whether or not one belongs to a race or a religion.” Arnaud-Khimoun was sentenced to a fine of €1,000 ($1,230). In October 2010, the Appeals Court of Bordeaux reaffirmed the verdict.

However, in July 2011, a court in Paris acquitted Olivia Zémor, a member of the group EuroPalestine, for posting a video on the internet showing Palestinian and French activists wearing t-shirts calling for a boycott of Israel. Zémor was brought to court by four organizations, including the Israeli Chamber of Commerce.

The Paris court ruled that calling for the boycott of Israeli products is not prohibited under French law. The tribunal said that “Criticism of a State or its policies cannot be regarded, in principle, as infringing the rights or dignity of its nationals, without seriously affecting freedom of expression in a world now globalized, whose civil society has become a major actor, and since no ‘criminal offence against a Foreign State’ has ever been established under substantive law or international common law, because this would be contrary to the commonly accepted standard of freedom to express opinions.”

The court added that “Since the call of a boycott of Israeli products is formulated by a citizen for political motives and is part of a political debate relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a debate concerned with a matter of general interest with international significance – the offence of incitement to discrimination, based on the fact of belonging to a Nation, is not constituted.” Moreover, the court pointed out, “certain sectors of Israeli opinion support the BDS call.” In this regard, it explicitly referred to the declaration of the Israeli Women’s Coalition for Peace.

The verdict in the Zémor case encouraged Arnaud-Khimoun in her decision to bring her case to the French Supreme Court. On 22 May, however, the French Cour de Cassation reaffirmed that publicly calling for the boycott of Israeli products is a case of incitement to discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Belgian Jews at Loggerheads Over Israel

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Belgian Jews are at loggerheads as a result of an EU vote to dispatch the UN to Israel on a mission to scrutinize Jewish towns and communities in Judea and Samaria.

Despite increasing detachment between Belgium’s Flemish and French-speaking population, the Jewish community has always maintained a high level of solidarity. Yet when Belgium became one of only two EU countries to vote in favor of a UN-led probe against Jewish life in what they call the “West Bank”, a major split occurred, according to a report by JTA.

Flemish Jews stated they were “shocked and appalled” by the vote, with French-speaking Jews remaining silent, even sending a representative to meet with a Belgian Foreign Ministry official who noted the warmth of Belg-Israeli relations.

In December, the umbrella organization representing Flemish Jews issued a criticism of the umbrella organization representing French-speaking Jews, for honoring a Belgian po9litician who had equated Israel and Nazism.

According to the JTA report, Antwerp Jews, where the majority of Flemish Jews live, tends to be more religious and strong in their support for Israel, whereas Brussels Jews tend to be more liberal, with less than a quarter of the number of Jewish schools.

Turkish Public TV to Broadcast Epic Holocaust Documentary

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Turkish public television TRT will broadcast the film “Shoah”, a 9-hour French documentary about the Holocaust, marking the first time it will be viewed in its entirety in a Muslim country.

Turkish public television channel TRT released a statement saying the film would be shown, but did not offer specifics.

“We should acknowledge the courage and determination of the Turks,” said Claude Lanzmann, director of the film. “Turkey is a country people don’t know and understand very badly.”

Project Aladdin, a French-based organization that seeks “to promote harmonious intercultural relations” between Muslims and Jews, has been the prime mover in broadcasting the documentary in Muslim cities around the world.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/turkish-public-tv-to-broadcast-epic-holocaust-documentary/2012/01/30/

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