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31st Jul 2016

Leading rabbi says Europe risks being 'overrun' by Islam

  • The Arab quarter in Brussels. 'Those who do not have a strong identity are easily overrun by those who do' Rabbi Rosen said (Photo: aldask)

One of the luminaries of the international Jewish community, Rabbi David Rosen, has warned that Europe risks being "overrun" by Islam unless it rediscovers its Christian roots.

Speaking to journalists at a meeting in Jerusalem on Friday (26 November), Rabbi Rosen, the director of inter-religious affairs at the Washington-based American Jewish Congress, said that a predominantly secular and liberal Western European society is under threat from the rapid growth of Islamic communities which do not want to integrate with their neighbours.

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"I am against building walls. My humanity is my most important component. But Western society very clearly doesn't have a strong identity. I would like Christians in Europe to become more Christian ... those who do not have a strong identity are easily overrun by those who do," the rabbi warned.

"I think there is a pretty good chance that your grandchildren, if they are not Muslim, then they will be very strong Roman Catholics," he told one Italian reporter. "I don't think a tepid identity can stand up to the challenge."

Rabbi Rosen's views are shared by a number of Jewish commentators, who look at the demographic growth of Muslims in Europe with the same trepidation as the demographic growth of Arabs in Israel.

"You have a problem that you don't see: You are in love with the idea of multi-culti, but you don't speak Arabic. In an era of liberalism, how do you protect your way of being? What is the contract [with Islam]?" Moti Cristal, a professional Israeli negotiator in the private-sector conflict resolution firm Nest Consulting, said.

Nachman Shai, a member of parliament for the centrist Kadima party in Israel, noted that the alleged soft threat to Western European identity is matched by the hard security threat of radical Islamist groups.

"If you follow the current streams in the Arab world, and you all have Muslim communities in your own countries now and you read about these developments, and you can see them there too, then you see that the Muslims are moving to the extreme, not to the centre, not toward compromise. They keep their own traditions. They keep their own way of life and they are becoming more and more religious and more and more radical," he said.

The politician explained that Israel is surrounded by an arc of militant Islam stretching from Iran, through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Israel believes that EU neighbour and enlargement candidate Turkey is also moving to the right in a deep strategic shift that goes beyond its disappointment with the slow pace of the accession process and may be based on Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan's ambition to become the new leader of the Muslim world.

"Syria is another link in the axis of evil, our axis of evil, which starts in Iran, goes through Lebanon and then unfortunately, one day, Turkey too," Mr Shai added.

The Israeli point of view is likely to resonate in some parts of Europe, which has seen an upsurge in anti-Islamic far-right parties in the past two years of economic crisis. And it fits with the recent outbreak of Islamist terror plots in EU states such as Belgium and Germany.

But the point of view is also rooted in the Jewish struggle to create a safe homeland for the Jewish people in a territory that sees competing claims from the native Arab population.

Mohammad Darawshe, the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a New-York-based NGO working to promote co-existence between Israel's Jewish and Arabic citizens, noted, in a potential lesson for Europe, that Israeli authorities' unwillingness to share wealth and power with the 1.4 million Arab Israelis who make up a fifth of the population is in itself a cause of tension.

"I live in a country where I am reminded every day that I do not belong ... We are seen as an extension of the Palestinian Arab enemy, a sort of fifth column in the state," he said.

Referring to growth in "racism" in the Jewish Israeli establishment, Mr Darawshe cited a recent survey by Tel Aviv University which showed that 65 percent of Jewish high school children do not like the sound of Arabic music, do not want to live next to Arabs and do not have any objections to the state imposing further limitations on Arab Israeli rights.

"They're not stupid kids and they're not racist kids. But they are hearing these things from someone older than them," he said.

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