September 11, 2012 Faith Matters

A Zero Tolerance Approach for Religious Bigotry

Declaration of European Muslim and Jewish Leaders at Paris, September 5th, 2012, ‘A Zero Tolerance Approach for Religious Bigotry.’

This is the text of the Declaration which was launched in Paris in September 2012:

We, Muslim and Jewish leaders of Europe, affirm together that in order to ensure the security and well being of millions of adherents of our two faith communities and to help guarantee that Europe itself has a democratic and pluralistic future, we must join hands in opposing all manifestations of anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and xenophobia.

We must stand together in opposing stigmatization and demonization of ‘the Other’; whether those sentiments are articulated by prejudiced and deluded people who view both Jews and Muslims as ‘outsiders’ or ‘strangers’ to Europe, even though our peoples have both lived on this Continent for more than a millennium, or, unforgivably, by some from within our own ranks.

Specifically, we must institute a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against religious leaders of any faith who misuse their pulpits to incite religious bigotry. To stand in front of worshippers in a House of God and advocate hatred and violence against those of other faith traditions is a sacrilege against our common Creator who loves all of humankind. We therefore vow to each other to speak out loudly and forcefully against any religious leader who defames those of other faiths, and, if such bigots emerge from within our own communities, to condemn them loudly and clearly.  Religious leaders that promote fear, hatred and violence—whether overtly or through tacitly crafted sinister messages –must not be accorded a scintilla of respectability.

We wish to make clear that this initiative has nothing to do with politics. Members of our two communities sometimes disagree—most notably, on issues connected to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict–even though we share a dream that our brothers and sisters in the Middle East will soon achieve a peace that will allow Israelis and Palestinians alike to live in peace and security. Yet, regardless of these differences, we can and must come together here in our common European home to oppose the demonization of any religious community.

We know that we must speak out together against hatred both because it is morally right and because doing so  will allow us to work more closely together on issues of vital concern to both communities. By building a united front, we can work together productively on a Europe-wide level to combat the rising number of initiatives in courts and parliaments in countries around the continent aimed at restricting and even outlawing Muslim and Jewish religious practices; especially on the important subjects of circumcision, ritual slaughtering, marriage and religious burial practices. We must also join hands in countering anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish bigotry from intolerant and chauvinistic movements which have grown rapidly in countries across Europe in recent years.

Preventing religious leaders from misusing their pulpits to preach hate of outsiders is a critically important first step, but must not be the end of our work together. We must initiate sustained dialogue and cooperative projects between Muslims and Jews; replacing mutual fear and resentment with a continent-wide movement of Muslims and Jews committed to communication, reconciliation and cooperation.

Let us therefore resolve to leave this Gathering resolute in our commitment to stand together against voices that appeal to hatred and bigotry. Let us work together to replace the rhetoric of intolerance and zealotry with open-hearted communication intended to nurture ties of friendship and trust. By raising our voices together, we can help to part the dark clouds of suspicion and demonization of the ‘Other’ and instead open bright new vistas of mutual understanding and engagement among Europeans of diverse backgrounds. The time to act is now.