European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (2nd R) and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering (3rd R) give a press conference with participants of the meeting of EU officials with European religious leaders on May 11, 2009 at the Berlaymont, the headquarter of the European Commission in Brussels. Some Jewish religious leaders declined to attend the meeting over the inclusion of extremist Muslim representatives.
Photo: Dominique Faget in Brussels, AFP Copyright 2009
BRUSSELS (EJP)---European Commission President José Manuel Barroso deplored Monday that some religious Jewish leaders boycotted a meeting of EU officials and European religious leaders over the inclusion of "anti-Semitic" extremist Muslim groups.
The meeting was co-hosted by the presidents of the European Commission and the European Parliament.
"The commission regrets the fact that some of the invited Jewish religious leaders have decided not to participate in this EU dialogue," Barroso said at the press conference.
"This meeting aims to foster dialogue and build on common ground, regarding the importance of this economic and financial crisis and we believe it is important to contribute."
He added: “It is time for unity and not for isolation on such an important topic."
In fact, the conference of European Rabbis (CER) declined the invitation to attend the interfaith gathering with the support of the European Jewish Congress (EJC), while Rabbi Levi Matusof, a representative of the interests of Jewish communities in Europe, was present.
"It is inappropriate that organizations such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, or individuals who in the past made, or endorsed, anti-Semitic statements and who are clearly linked to the radical Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood should be present at such gatherings," said Rabbi Aba Dunner, executive director of the CER.
Rabbi Levi Matusof told a press conference after the meeting at the European Commission:"This is a dialogue between the religious leaders and the European institutions, it is not an intra-religious dialogue between the religious leaders."
The European Jewish Congress (EJC), an umbrella political representative group for Jewish communities around Europe, supported the CER’s decision to boycott the EU meeting.
“At the very root of any meaningful interfaith dialogue is the critically important issue of tolerance, acceptance and mutual respect. Sadly, today’s European interfaith gathering reflects neither that spirit nor its practice,” EJC President Moshe Kantor said in a statement.
“Instead, whether by oversight or by deliberate action, three of the four Muslim invitees taken by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering included Muslim representatives who have links to organizations affiliated with the international Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organization known for supporting jihad against the West".
"This undermines the important interfaith efforts that so many European leaders have worked to strengthen,” the EJC said.
The Jewish group particularly mentioned the presence at the meeting of Prof.Tariq Ramadan, who, it said, "is a divisive and conflicted individual who has been known for promoting and defending the ‘clashes of civilizations’ ideology."
"There is simply no excuse for those who either preach hate or are affiliated with extremist religious organizations to be invited to any official interfaith gathering in Europe, especially under the patronage of the Presidents of the European Union and the European Parliament," it said.