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Can a Muslim Love France?

(Photo by Erica Simone http://www.ericasimone.com)(Photo by Erica Simone)

(Photo by ThisisAfrica.me)(Photo by ThisisAfrica.me)

I hope you were not bored by the tales of our 12 days in South Africa. We landed Wednesday morning at Charles de Gaulle Airport and are recovering from a long overnight flight and a re-adjustment to life in Paris after being in the southern hemisphere where life in the urban jungle of Cape Town and the real jungle are very, very different. My daughter complained that I didn’t really use her best photos in Monday’s Nouvellettre®, so if you want to see a professional’s photos, visit her Facebook album.

Traveling is always an eye-opening experience, not just because of the varied landscapes, but more because of the real differences in culture and lifestyle. Everyone in South Africa speaks English, but about 13.5% speak Afrikaans as well. Afrikaans is like Yiddish — a combination of German and Dutch vernacular, with a blend of other languages: Portuguese, the Bantu languages and Malay. During our travels, we encountered people from all over the world, including a lot of French, visiting both Cape Town and on safari. The people in the hospitality industry speak many languages other than English and Afrikaans to accommodate them.

I was intrigued by the culture that now exists after Apartheid — the discrimination that existed until 1991 based on white supremacy and the repression of the Black and Indian Africans, a majority of the population. How has it changed? Is there real integration, or only legal integration? How long will it take for the various factions to really blend and shed their racial skins? Decades? Or centuries? Inter-racial marriages went from 303 to 1 in 1996 to 95 to 1 in 2011 — a good sign that there is new mutual tolerance of the races, mostly thanks to access to education by the previously disadvantaged groups…the non-whites.

(Illustration by R. Fresson for NY Times)(Illustration by R. Fresson for NY Times)

(Illustration by statista.com)(Illustration by statista.com)

(Illustration by FiveThirtyEight.com)(Illustration by FiveThirtyEight.com)

During the week in South Africa, about a half-dozen people sent me an article that ran recently in the New York Times — “Can a Jew Love France?” Quite frankly, for me the article just perpetuates the myth or misunderstandings about anti-semitism in France because it’s written from one person’s perspective, which is not necessarily the true picture. The author, Alexander Aciman, wrote: “But things are not so dreamy for Jews today in France. The country is struggling to maintain and protect its large Jewish population, the third largest in the world, which has been dwindling precipitously thanks to the wave of anti-Semitism that has gripped the country over the past decade. In 2015 — the year of the Charlie Hebdo attack — 8,000 Jews left France and headed for Israel.”

Sure, it’s true that France is “struggling to maintain and protect its large Jewish population.” Of course it is. That’s a good sign that neither France itself, the government of France, nor the French, are condoning the anti-semitic behavior. There are factions living within France that take up the Palestinian cause and see all Jews as a threat, rather than Israel as their enemy. Not only the Jews have been affected by the terrorist or anti-semitic behavior, all of France has suffered and that doesn’t make the Christian French any happier than the Jewish French.

Yes, many Jews have left France and headed for Israel. They headed for other places, too. So have many non-Jews. Thanks to François Hollande’s socialist government, who made it near to impossible to find a job or create a profitable business. This left little opportunity for the young and has been a serious drain from France from many different factions. It’s easy to single out the Jews and cite the numbers and use anti-semitism as the culprit, but is the press balancing this information with the other side of the story? I am not so sure.

So, can a Jew love France? Of course he/she can. In fact, I quite love France because it’s a lot less racist than the country I grew up in — the U.S.A. Is the current U.S. administration protecting anyone from racism? Not that I can tell! In fact, it’s inciting it, and that’s coming from the government as well as from the people who support the current administration. So, Alexander Aciman, go live in the U.S. outside of New York or Los Angeles or any city where Jews have a decent representation and see how much fun that is. I’ll bet you won’t like it very much and will find anti-semitism quite rampant even in a land of immigrants.

What I see, as a Jew who feels no direct discrimination whatsoever in France, is a large population of muslims who are treated with disdain by the French — it’s what they call “The Arab Problem,” those who are treated like second class citizens who can’t get jobs and don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else, including French Jews. I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes and I’d be asking the question: Can a Muslim Love France?

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - in South Africa

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

(in South Africa)

Respond to Adrian

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Roni Beth Tower

P.S. P.S. Coming up at the next Après Midi, February 13, Roni Beth Tower discusses her memoir “Miracle at Midlife: A Transatlantic Romance.” Details on our Après Midi page. Make your plans to be there now!      

 

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