Jews and Muslims come together to fight persecution

Against a backdrop of hatred and antisemitism, a new wave of activism born of tolerance and solidarity is gaining traction

Jewish and Muslim communities around Europe are joining together to fight hate crime in the aftermath of the Paris attacks.

Both communities have been on a heightened state of alert since Islamist extremists shot and killed members of the Charlie Hebdo editorial team in the French capital, which was followed by a siege at a kosher supermarket that left four hostages dead.

In north London’s borough of Hackney – home to Europe’s largest concentration of Haredi Jews and a substantial Muslim community – leaders of both faiths said they stand united, with a number of projects by the Muslim-Jewish Forum helping to fortify links between the religions.

One initiative is the Shomrim, a police-trained voluntary Jewish community patrol that responds to reports of crime and antisocial behaviour. In recent months, information provided by the Shomrim has helped police make arrests following a number of cases of antisemitic vandalism – some of which have affected Muslim families as well.

“Despite everything that has happened in the Middle East and Paris in the past year, the number of incidents involving Muslims and Jews is nil.”

However, local councillor Ian Sharer said that none of the reports involved anyone from local Muslim or Jewish communities.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, he said: “There have been a few nasty things, but the number of incidents involving Muslims and Jews in the past year is nil and despite everything that has happened in the Middle East and Paris it is still nil. Relationships are not strained at all.”

Indeed, a study by the University of Essex indicates that the UK population still values the Jewish community, despite events in recent times, with British people giving Jews an average score of 62 on a ‘thermometer scale’ rating positive and negative feelings of 0-100. By way of comparison, Christians were given a score of 63.

This solidarity is apparent throughout Europe. In February more than 1,000 Muslims formed a human shield around a synagogue in Oslo following a violent attack in Copenhagen, with participants chanting “No to antisemitism, no to Islamophobia”.

Elsewhere, Germany’s Salaam-Schalom initiative – an organisation that promotes peaceful coexistence between the religious communities in Berlin – has seen many examples of Jews and Muslims coming together amid political and religious turmoil, with hundreds taking part in a Jewish/Muslim human chain event to demonstrate their unity.

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“Our goal is to create dialogue,” Israeli-born, Berlin-based Salaam-Schalom member Adi Liraz told The Jewish Daily Forward. “Not a dialogue that is behind closed doors but rather an open, public dialogue, to show the German society that such a dialogue is possible, that it exists, that it also makes sense.

“We are not soldiers standing against each other on the front line. We are average people living in the same city.”