PARIS (EJP)---Prominent Muslim and Jewish leaders from across Europe pledged to stand together against the rise of extreme-right xenophobic and racist parties that represent an escalating peril to ethnic and religious minorities across Europe, including Jews and Muslims.
These leaders made the pledge during a gathering in Paris of the “Coordinating Committee of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders.”
The first meeting of the Coordinating Committee was initiated by the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), the World Council for Muslim Inter-Faith Relations (WCMIR), and the World Jewish Congress (WJC).
It is follow up to the first annual Gathering of European Muslim and Jewish leaders, which was launched in Brussels last December.
Together with top communal leaders from Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the US, the Muslim and Jewish leaders announced plans for a series of public events in European capitals, on 9 May which marks Europe Day.
The leaders expressed deep concern about the emergence into the political mainstream of extremist parties in many European countries and declared that it was “totally unacceptable” that several of these parties had been accepted by governing coalitions as tacit partners where they are allowed to help shape the agenda.
Contending that “Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism must never be allowed to become respectable,” the leaders expressed disquiet over recent pronouncements by European statesmen including President Sarkozy of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister Cameron of Britain, characterizing multiculturalism as a “failure”. These comments, they said, have been cited by extreme-right parties as evidence that they are winning the battle for public opinion in Europe.
Promising to press European decision-makers not to cooperate in any way with extremist parties, the Jewish and Muslim leaders vowed: “We will not allow ourselves to be separated, but will stand together to fight bigotry against Muslims, Jews and other minorities. An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us.”
Citing studies which show that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are both growing rapidly in countries across Europe, the communal leaders affirmed that “Jews and Muslims are equal stakeholders in Europe, not expendable guests, and must therefore enjoy the same rights as everybody else. Appeasing those that sow the seeds of hatred and division is not only morally wrong, but will have disastrous consequences for Europe if allowed to continue.”
“If Europe wants to remain true to its ethical and spiritual foundations, it must embrace people from different cultures, religions and ways of life. If not, it will not only fail as a concept, it will lose its soul,” said FFEU President and World Jewish Congress Vice President Rabbi Marc Schneier.