Muslims: The modern day Jews?

October 1, 2010 4:16 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

In the early 1900’s, Jews were considered the bane of society across much of Europe and Russia. Anti-Semitism was rife during this period; Jews were the scapegoat, the fault-line in society. This culminated within in Nazi Germany where Hitler and the Nazi’s used industrial techniques to mass exterminate Jews in what the Nazis called the “Final Solution”. Yet has the Jew of the 1900’s been replaced by the Muslim in the twenty first century? Are Muslims the scapegoats of the problems in modern Europe? And is it appropriate to draw such a comparison? Jews were demonised greatly in the early twentieth century. In much of Europe and Russia, Jews were ostracised within society and segregated because of the age-old image of the “greedy Jew”. This heightened anti-Semitism became central to Hitler’s regime. While eugenics was still big across Europe (and even in America), the idea of preserving race or national “stock”, along with the general anti-Semitic attitudes across Europe became inter-twined and manifest in Nazi Germany. When the Nazi’s seized power they worked to ensure that Jews were persecuted in every aspect of their lives. While this was attempt to marginalise Jews it was far from exclusive to Germany or even just the Fascist European states, it reached its peak and most austere within the confines of Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. The Jew was subjected to a transition from an “equal” citizen to a sub- human of society. This began with propaganda that turned the Jew into the “villain” of society. The “greedy Jews” were supposed to have had a monopoly on society and were the pariahs of Europe; this was then also drawn to the supposed “Jewish Bolshevism” (a fact aided by both Marx and Trotsky being of Jewish origin). Muslims are now supposedly the “pariahs of Europe” in much the same way as the Jew. Islam has recently been subjected to all sorts of vilification by the media and by ultra- Nationalist groups. While the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard portrayed The Prophet Muhammed as a suicide bomber (with the bomb located in his turban), while far-right and ultra-Nationalist groups talk of the “Islamification of Europe” and use such images as the Islamic Star and Crescent on a map of Britain, subtitled with the mocking name of “Londonistan”. While Jews were subjected to propaganda that went to dehumanise them, the legal system went one step further. Nazi Germany was the most profound example, but not the only one. Jews faced extreme prejudice in Europe and to the degree where they were made second-rate citizens. This was done through the systematic removal of their rights, by firstly denying access to business opportunities to eventually facing segregation laws, having passports removed and being ‘numbered’ and forced to ‘forget’ their names as an attempt to completely remove the humanity in them. While in Britain there has been nominal legislation that has removed the rights of Muslims, the start of such a path has been taken in Britain and is being well trod in several countries in Europe. The banning of Islam4UK due to its supposed loose “terrorist” links, while the EDL who have obvious connections with far-right communities who have had convicted terrorists in their ranks. Also the recent Guardian reports on the ‘anti-terror’ cameras in Muslim communities highlights the dangerous stereotyping of Muslims as “terrorists” as well as touching on the considerably tense debate on so-called ‘profiling’ which would make abstract conclusions of people based primarily on cultural and racial backgrounds rather than on actual evidence. In Europe things have taken a much more sinister path with the calls for the ban of the “burqa” (while in actuality the ban is aimed at the niqab) in Belgium and by French President Nicholas Sarkozy, this coupled with the ban of minarets in Switzerland in a country which only has four of the aforementioned ‘offending’ object. The most obvious line of austere similarities between the Jews of the early 1900’s and the modern Muslim is the high levels of violence. In Europe, Jews were subjected to considerable levels of violence, this was high during the Nazi days in Germany, where essentially state-sponsored violence pervaded across the nation. The most extreme end to the Jewish violence finally resulted in the eventual use of concentration camps and the Holocaust. While these crimes were the most extreme forms of anti-Semitism, the general atmosphere in Europe up to the Nazi seizure of power had allowed such prejudices to manifest, while a clear distinction must be drawn between racism, anti-Semitism, Islamaphobia and the crimes of the Holocaust, the lessons of history must be taken seriously to avoid such crimes re- occurring in the future. The violence Jews experienced on kristallnacht was the stepping-stone of violence that was to permeate across Nazi occupied Europe. Jewish businesses became targets of high levels of destruction. In the last year the high-scale demonstrations of the far-right boot-boys of the EDL saw in Luton the damage to many Muslim and Asian shops, Muslims graves and more recent demonstrations in Stoke and Bolton saw Mosques being damaged and daubed with racist, Islamaphobic and Nazi messages and symbols of hatred. This as well as the highjacking of the Mosque site in Dudley and the aggravated violence and intimidation of Muslims at such demonstrations at Luton, Stoke etc has generally only seen an increasing intensity and tempo. So while the message appears bleak there must be a consideration that if history teaches us one thing, that things can be altered. Comparing Jews and Muslims may cause some offence, but to highlight the plight faced by each in Europe in their subsequent eras highlights one of the key problems of external faiths in “Christian” Europe, so while there are clear distinctions between Jews and Muslims and the plights they’ve faced throughout the last century, the warnings in history help us to understand the current trends of our time. Islamaphobia has been on the increase, the governments of the West have failed to draw the distinctions of the Imperial wars against the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and the mainstream Muslims within their own territories. Groups such as Hope not Hate and Unite Against Fascism with their work against fascism and attempt to educate people against the prejudices against Muslims and other communities as well as helping to dispel the poor image of the populace of the faith of Islam have started to try and re-address the issues faced by Muslims. So while Muslims face the same prejudices, propaganda and violence of the Jews in early 20th Century Europe it does not need to follow the same road and a mixture of facing Nazis face-to-face and attempting to educate the ill-informed can hopefully bring about a far less catastrophic outcome.


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This post was written by Ben Maisky

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