Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or Christianophobia: Fear of the Fear
Early tomorrow morning I’ll be boarding the train for a long weekend in my second city in France, Nice, but woke up to the news that a man with a knife attacked French soldiers on patrol in front of a Jewish community center in the heart of Nice — in fact, just steps from my apartment at Place Masséna.
Does this frighten me? Not in the least. In fact, it has stirred my curiosity to see how Nice and other parts of France outside Paris are handling the rash of terrorist violence that has put us all on guard. I suspect security will be heightened as it has here in cold, gray ‘Paree’ ever since the Charlie Hebdo incident.
The attacker, who was arrested, has the same last name as the murderer of the shoppers in the kosher supermarket a few weeks ago, but there doesn’t seem to be a link, other than the common name. The building in Nice houses the Nice Jewish Consistory, the local Jewish council and Radio Shalom just where the Tramway stops at the beautiful red and ochre-colored Place.
Guards have been deployed since the recent violence in Paris — more than 10,000 soldiers are now on the streets to protect such sensitive locations. And due to the high alert, French authorities are doing what they can to thwart future incidences. As a result, seven men and women were arrested Tuesday in Paris and Lyon who were suspected of involvement with Islamist extremists in Syria.
All this makes me feel a whole lot safer — that the authorities are really doing something to protect us all from these somewhat independent, yet philosophically linked incidents. Their presence is everywhere now — from a guard at the post office checking sacks to soldiers with machine guns in the Métro. In addition, there is certainly many more plain-clothes police everywhere we would not even notice. On an individual basis, Paris is still one of the safest cities on the planet and fear of my safety hasn’t entered my thought patterns for a moment — even when I pass the offices of La Liberation just around the corner where the staff of Charlie Hebdo are now working, with barricades preventing walking down the sidewalk and added security guards.
Meanwhile, the BBC ran an interesting story about how much of the Muslim community doesn’t want to believe that the terrorist attacks could be carried out by Muslims — that it was a conspiracy to discredit the Muslims. (bbc.co.uk/)
I don’t blame them for wanting to ‘live in state of denial’ over the recent reign of terror. It’s tough enough for the Muslim community which doesn’t agree with these extremists, to be considered without prejudice. It’s a strange clash of prejudice and hate, if you ask me. Jews who are afraid now to live among the large Muslim population in France — those Muslims (if they are Muslims) who are purportedly at the root of the terrorist acts, even if only by their extremist counterparts, don’t normally suffer the same prejudices by the French as their Muslim compatriots.
That being said, a complaint was filed against NSL Studio for an ad that ran by in Graphic-Jobs.com discriminating against Jewish applicants. Yes, it’s illegal in France to discriminate by referring to a candidate’s religion, gender, age, etc. The authorities apologized and stated “We have a team of moderators who read, check and validate more than 300 ads every day…this sadly slipped through the controls,” claiming further that it was the fault of a “hacker,” while another employee of he company said the ad meant to say they needed someone who would not be restricted by “cultural or religious concerns.” Who are they fooling? Maybe no one, but if you visit both of their sites, the apology is there and you can be certain it won’t happen again.
American Jews write me often about their concern for the rise in anti-semitism in France. It’s undeniable, but from where that prejudice comes is the key to the answer. And while the Jews are claiming anti-semitism, the Muslims are claiming a rash of “Islamophobia.”
Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, is trying to make it clear that the people of Islam have nothing to do with ISIS. We should also take note that there is a difference between Israel and the Jews, much in the same way. Being a Jew doesn’t mean an accord with Israeli politics, just as being a Muslim doesn’t automatically align one with ISIS or other extremists groups. Why is it our habit to assume that one bad apple spoils all the rest in the barrel?
The anti-Muslim sentiment is strong across France, evidenced by the rise of popularity of the right National Front Party who has an anti-immigration and anti-Muslim agenda. President François Hollande stated that Muslims are the “first victims of fanaticism, fundamentalism and intolerance,” but found it necessary to deploy his army to defend Jewish schools from Muslim terrorists, not Muslim schools from Jewish terrorists.
Let’s see it this way: the anti-muslim sentiment is more widespread among the French than anti-Jewish sentiment. I can assure you that it’s much easier to be a Jew in France than a Muslim, in spite of the targeted terrorist attacks. And among the Jews and Muslims, is there anti-Christian sentiment? We have seen this recently in China where holy statues had been destroyed, removed or “hidden” by authorities demonstrating renewed government offensive against Christianity. Would you dream that wearing a cross on a chain around your neck might put you at as much risk as wearing a skull cap or “Mogen David” (star of David)?
To all of you who are watching the news from a distance, particularly the TV news channels such as CNN and Fox, who sensationalize every word to increase their audiences and raise their advertising rates, be careful not to be sucked in by the fear they instill by playing the same 30-second video over and over again, or the tone in their voices that make it seem like France is a war zone and that every Jew on the street is being targeted. This is not the case.
We all go along our merry way, living our lives just the way we lived them yesterday, and the day before yesterday and the day before that. We aren’t trying to avoid the historic Jewish street Rue des Rosiers because of possible terrorist activity — in fact it’s the safest street in the city at the moment thanks to all the security. We aren’t letting the terrorists win by scaring us off to places we think will be safer. And safer from what? From whom?
In the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)’s 2015 Safe Cities Index, Tokyo is ranked #1, New York is ranked 10th and Paris 23rd, out of 50. Paris ranks higher in specific categories — it ranks 5th in Health Safety and 3rd in Global Food Safety.
What the survey doesn’t rank is terrorist activity. That’s because if it would, it would confirm that terrorism works. The minute we give in to our fears, the terrorists know they have won and will do even more damage. If there would be any way for us humans to be less human by becoming indifferent to the violence, then we would have a chance of winning the war against terrorism in general. But we are human, and we do have fear, and we can’t be indifferent.
What we can be is brave, defiant, confident and tolerant, without hate, without prejudice, without mistrust. We are the only ones who can stop the hate by stopping hating others.
Is that too much to ask?
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Join us next week, Tuesday, February 10th, at Parler Paris Après-Midi, to welcome Deborah Jenner who will be speaking on “Climate Reality.” Deborah Jenner is one of Al Gore’s volunteers, trained by him personally at a conference in Istanbul in June 2013. Meet us all from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. upstairs at Café de la Mairie (formerly La Pierre du Marais), on the corner of rue des Archives and rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement. Métro Lines 9, 3 et 11, stations Temple, République or Arts et Métiers. It costs nothing except whatever you drink!
P.P.S. It’s not every mother who is proud of seeing her daughter NUDE in public! I guess I’m not an ordinary mother, because I couldn’t be more proud of the work Erica Simone has done with her collection of photos in “Nue York: Self-Portraits of a Bare Urban Citizen.” She has launched a fundraising project to publish a high quality hard cover fine art photography book, containing approximately 45 original images, taken over a five-year span. The funds will be directly used to cover the costs of producing and publishing the book. “To clarify, I’m not an exhibitionist or a nudist –- I’m an artist looking to humorously poke at some interesting thoughts about society and question who we are and portray as human beings. It’s now up to the viewer to answer those questions, as he/she likes.” (Erica Simone) To support the project, visit pubslush.com/project/4327