Haïm Korsia: “We all have to protect the Republic”

July 23, 2014

Jewish chaplain and the new Chief Rabbi of France, Haïm Korsia is known for his commitment to interreligious dialogue and to the values of the French republic. He was elected June 22, 2014 and is now faced with a series of attacks against the country’s Jewish community that have occurred during pro-Palestinian demonstrations. In the wake of rioting in Sarcelles Korsia participated in an interfaith prayer session with Drancy’s imam Hassen Chalghoumi in the town’s synagogue. Korsia answered questions in a recent interview with Le Point.

When asked his reaction to the speeches given at the presidential palace and at the prayer session in Sarcelles, he answered that is was a “necessary time for the national community, that needed to express the idea of solidarity between all its peoples, to say that there are things that are unacceptable.”

Korsia affirmed that it was not only up to Muslim leaders to speak out against violent acts. In the words of imam Chalghoumi, those perpetrators “are not in true support of any cause, they are not Muslims, they demonstrate only a rejection of the system and a hate for Jews. It is necessary to recognize this in order to fight: it will not work to be alarmist, but to make a fair observation in order to institute working methods, education, and courage so that there may be a peaceful ‘living together,’ which is France’s true mission.” The rabbi stated, “There is no war of religions, but of Frenchmen who attacked other Frenchmen.”

The rabbi trusts Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve’s statement that there will no future demonstrations. He expressed his surprise at elected officials who attended banned demonstrations, saying, “It is incomprehensible that certain people scoff at the Republic that they are supposed to embody.”

He stressed the importance of interreligious dialogue and of schools to introduce children to classmates with different religions than their own. “Someone else’s religion doesn’t have to be a mystery, a radical otherness, but another form of humanity that is just as deserving of respect,” he said. Korsia believes that this type of dialogue is possible in public schools. “One must go back to basics, at what is at the heart of the republican intention: we are all citizens, and there is a single community that counts: the national community,” he affirmed.

When referring to the “great national cause” he acknowledged the specific fight against anti-Semitism. However he said “it’s necessary to see things as they are: when we engage in methods to fight anti-Semitism, we give the impression that there are two weights, two measures…In reality one must fight against any rejection. The fight against global racism is good, but with a specificity towards anti-Semitism, which must become a great national cause.”

According to the recent findings, 5,000 French Jews have relocated to Israel in 2014 compared with 1,907 in 2012. Korsia stated that this number may be related to the anxiety many Jews feel in France, but is not the only reason for their relocation.

When asked if he believes that the majority of France feels a “softness” towards the anti-Semitic violence that occurred he answered, “not a softness, but an indifference, a resignation.” He stated that it’s necessary to work towards instituting “freedom and brotherhood while at the same time working toward national reconciliation.”

“Muslims of France wish for a united brotherhood” affirm Muslim leaders

July 23, 2014

In a recent statement, Muslim leaders recognize the “particular resonance in our country” of the “war between Israel and Palestinians.” They emphasized that “the Muslims of France wish for one united brotherhood, to live together peacefully.”

“No exterior conflict, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, should, in any case and in any way, be brought into France and most of all affect the relations between our country’s citizens or generate hostile behavior between them,” they wrote.

The leaders condemned “the small minority, who under pretext of defending the Palestinian cause, infiltrate the demonstrations that have peaceful objectives to attack citizens or their places of worship, no matter if they are Christians, Jews or Muslims.”

They called on the Muslim community to stand up to these “‘thugs’ whose objectives are totally foreign to [the community’s] interests and principles.” Reaffirming their support for the Great Mosque of Lyon they called on Jewish leaders to “understand, beyond the passions and legitimate feelings that they feel in regard to Israel, that we as well cannot remain insensitive to these children, to these women and these Palestinian men who die each day.”

The concluded: “We propose to our Jewish citizens of France to discuss together the best ways to resist…proponents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in France and in the world.”

Statement issued by:

*Laid Abdelkader Bendidi, Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Benaissa Chana, Vice Président du CRCM Rhône-Alpes

Azeddine Gaci, Recteur de la Mosquée Othmane

Kamel Kabtane, Recteur de la Mosquée de Lyon

Paris, Sarcelles: Cazeneuve “takes complete responsibility” for the ban on pro-Palestinian demonstrations

July 21, 2014

After a pro-Palestinian demonstration turned violent in Sarcelles, Val-d’Oise on Sunday, July 20, a similar demonstration followed in the streets of Paris in the Barbès neighbourhood. Bernard Cazeneuve spoke about the controversial decision to ban public demonstrations in support of Palestinians. He does not regret this decision, stating, “I take full responsibility for the decision…Every French citizen should live harmoniously with one another no matter their religious beliefs, their confession, their conviction. Can you do this when you let things escalate?” asked Cazeneuve in a recent interview.

According to Cazeneuve the violence would have been “worse” in Sarcelles without the ban. He assured those wishing to hold demonstrations that police heads would meet to discuss the possibilities of future pro-Palestinian demonstrations. If the demonstrations can be held “without risk” to public order “they will be allowed” he said.

According to Cazeneuve there is a “small minority” of French Muslims who are “radicalized.” “That has already shocked the representatives of Islam in France…There is a large majority of French Muslims that condemn [the violence] in France, Muslims are tied to the Republic,” he affirmed.

“’They themselves are put at risk’ by the recent events…They see the consequences that all of this can have on them” said Cazeneuve. “These hoodlums who riot in Sarcelles or elsewhere are not representative of the Islam of France.”

In Sarcelles, Muslim and Jewish dignitaries pray for peace

July 22, 2014

On Sunday, July 20 violence marred a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Sarcelles. In its aftermath leaders from both the Muslim and Jewish communities, including France’s chief rabbi Haim Korsia and the imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi, gathered to pray together.

The multi-faith prayer took place in the town’s synagogue under the protection of local police and included singer Enrico Macias and writer Marek Halter. Soon after Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist leaders gathered at the French president’s official residence to denounce anti-Semitism. “The president of the Republic reminded us that the fight against anti-Semitism will be a national cause,” underlined president of the Central Israeli Consistory Joel Mergui.

The violent riots took place in Sarcelles, a city north of Paris, known for its large North African Jewish community and often referred to as “little Jerusalem.” Cars were burned and stores were ransacked, including a kosher grocery store. Eighteen people were arrested and eleven remain in police custody, four of whom are minors.

“I didn’t sleep at night, I was anxious. People from all places live together here, we don’t understand,” said a 67 year-old Jewish resident whose car was destroyed. The city’s mayor Francois Pupponi later stated that “the Jewish community is scared” and no longer feels secure.

Muslims or not, citizens called on to express their solidarity with Gaza

July 22, 2014

Close to two weeks after Israel’s army began bombing the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 650, most of whom were women and children. Many more have been injured and over 100,000 Palestinians have been displaced according to the United Nations. The Gathering of Muslims of France (RFM) firmly condemns “blind violence that violates international law and reiterates its deepest emotion and greatest concern at the unprecedented killing spree.”

According to the RFM is a country that “engenders great respect in the region,” and must “play a determining and decisive role for the immediate end to this violence and work for the establishment of justice and peace in this bruised region.”

The RFM “calls on the Muslims of France, politicians and all loving citizens of peace and justice to express their solidarity with the Palestinian cause, with respect for the republican pact which links and concerns us all.”

The organization reinforced the need for peaceful protest and reiterated that French Muslims reject “all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The Muslims of France are equally respectful of the sanctity of places of worship and are deeply committed to the safety of persons and property.”

French Muslims are invited to “benefit from these blessed days of Ramadan to pray that the martyrdom of the Palestinian people can stop as soon as possible.”

Signed,

Anour Kbibech, President of the RFM

National Assembly strengthens anti-terrorism law

July 23, 2014

The National Assembly’s legal commission strengthened the law aimed at reinforcing France’s fight against terrorism. The legislation is expected to combat the threat represented by the presence of numerous French and European jihadists in Syria and in Iraq.

The plan’s key measure provides for the possibility to prohibit, for a limited time, a suspected individual from leaving the country to participate in jihadist operations. The text created a new “illegal entity”, that of an “individual terrorist firm” and equally reinforces Internet monitoring with the possibility of the government blocking sites that glorify terrorism.

“When these young people…see crime in its most barbaric and terrible form, with numerous executions, decapitations, and crucifixions, their behavior is destroyed to the point that when they come back, they represent a danger to our national security,” said Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve Tuesday, July 22 at the Assembly meeting.

The text, which will be publicly debated by leaders in September, completes the plan put in place in April, whose goal was to prohibit jihadist suspects from participating in Syria’s war.

Authorities have already put in place prohibitions in which children’s names, at the request of their parents, can be put on a list circulated throughout the European Union in order to stop minors from leaving to fight.

All the amendments presented by the Commission’s spokesperson, Sebastien Pietrasanta (PS) were passed. Both an individual’s identity card and passport can be confiscated in order to prohibit entrance to Turkey, the gateway to Syria.

Editors and hosts of websites “leading to acts of terrorism or glorifying it” will be, according to the amendment, required to remove the content in question.

According to Sebastien Pietrasanta, 900 Frenchmen have been involved in Syrian jihadist networks. As of mid-July, 342 Frenchmen are currently fighting in Syria including 50 women and seven minors. Over 150 people are in the process of going to Syria, and 171 are leaving Syria, of which 100 have returned to France. Thirty-three of these combatants were killed. Homeland Security stopped three people suspected of being members of a jihadist group Tuesday in Albi.

Bernard Cazeneuve: number of individuals involved in jihadist networks has risen 56% in six months

The minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve presented the anti-terrorism bill to French leaders, stating a record number of involved individuals. At the beginning of his speech Cazeneuve specified that “terrorist groups have nothing to do with the Islam of France.”

He then listed an unsettling number of Frenchmen involved in jihadist networks. “Despite engaged efforts, the number of young radicalized, jihadist Frenchmen in this country has not ceased to grow,” said Cazeneuve.

The number of combatants has risen from 234 to 334 in six months, including 55 women and seven minors. “These figures require us to take measures to stem this phenomenon,” he argued. The rise of those involved in more general jihadist networks has risen 56% in six months. “What we are confronted with constantly changes,” he noted, stating that one shouldn’t believe “in the concept of the lone wolf.”

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion [PDF DOWNLOAD]

July 21, 2014

DOWNLOAD FULL PDF REPORT: Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions

Investigations, Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

(Washington, DC) –The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,”examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

How Americans Feel About Religious Groups [PDF download]

July 16, 2014

Jews, Catholics & Evangelicals Rated Warmly, Atheists and Muslims More Coldly

PDF DOWNLOAD OF REPORT: “How Americans Feel About Religious Groups”

Jews, Catholics and evangelical Christians are viewed warmly by the American public. When asked to rate each group on a “feeling thermometer” ranging from 0 to 100 – where 0 reflects the coldest, most negative possible rating and 100 the warmest, most positive rating – all three groups receive an average rating of 60 or higher (63 for Jews, 62 for Catholics and 61 for evangelical Christians). And 44% of the public rates all three groups in the warmest part of the scale (67 or higher).

Buddhists, Hindus and Mormons receive neutral ratings on average, ranging from 48 for Mormons to 53 for Buddhists. The public views atheists and Muslims more coldly; atheists receive an average rating of 41, and Muslims an average rating of 40. Fully 41% of the public rates Muslims in the coldest part of the thermometer (33 or below), and 40% rate atheists in the coldest part.

These are some of the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted May 30-June 30, 2014, among 3,217 adults who are part of Pew Research’s new American Trends Panel, a nationally representative panel of randomly selected U.S. adults.

Jews Rated Most Positively by Whites; Evangelicals and Muslims Viewed More Favorably by Blacks than Whites

Jews receive their most positive ratings from whites, who give them an average rating of 66. Jews also are rated favorably by blacks and Hispanics (with each group giving Jews an average rating of 58). Evangelicals also are rated positively by all three groups, with their highest average rating coming from blacks (68). Muslims receive a neutral rating from blacks (49 on average), but they are rated more negatively by whites (38). Hispanics’ ratings of Muslims fall in between (43).

Politics and Religion: Partisans’ Views of Religious Groups

Republicans and those who lean toward the Republican Party tend to rate evangelicals very positively (71 on average). They also express warm feelings toward Jews (67 on average) and Catholics (66). The warmth Republicans feel for evangelicals may reflect the fact that many Republicans and Republican leaners are themselves evangelicals. Among those who are not evangelical Christians, evangelicals receive an average rating of 62. Mormons receive a neutral rating from Republicans and Republican leaners (52 on average), while Buddhists receive a rating of 49 and Hindus a rating of 47. Republicans and Republican leaners view atheists and Muslims much more negatively than they view other religious groups.

Democrats and Democratic leaners express warm feelings toward Jews (average rating of 62) and Catholics (61). Buddhists also are rated favorably (57 on average) by Democrats. Evangelicals receive an average rating of 53 from all Democrats and Democratic leaners, but this drops to 45 among those who are not evangelicals themselves. With the exception of Jews, all of the non-Christian groups asked about receive warmer ratings from Democrats and Democratic leaners than they do from Republicans.

Is It Nation of Islam Time Again in Hip-Hop?

July 19, 2014

A revival of the Nation of Islam connection—if it avoids repeating some of the errors of the past—could signal a new era of consciousness in commercial hip-hop.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, a wave of commercial hip-hop artists, like Public Enemy, Poor Righteous Teachers, Brand Nubian, Eric B. & Rakim, Paris, Gang Starr, Ice Cube and MC Ren, used their platform to promote political awareness, community uplift and cultural self-determination. They drew their inspiration in part from Islam—as culture, ideology and religion—influenced primarily by the Nation of Islam and its offshoot the Nation of Gods and Earths, or Five Percenters.

As movements, both the NOI and NGE actively engaged hip-hop artists and the communities in which the artists and their audiences lived. The NOI organized anti-crime patrols, established drug-prevention programs and negotiated gang truces. The NGE’s cipher gatherings rewarded those most skilled in wordplay. The theologies of the NOI, and the NGE in particular, proclaimed the black man “God,” and while contested by other Muslim traditions, this fit perfectly within the hip-hop tradition of the superlative boast (who, after all, could top God) and placed black men at the center of hip-hop’s universe.

For Electronica, the NOI is much more than stage props or costumes: He has sampled Elijah Muhammad on his tracks; and in his freestyle remix of Drake’s “We Made It” with Jay Z, he declares the Muslim “shahada”—the testimony of faith that “there is no god but Allah”—in Arabic and proclaims himself “the Farrakhan of rap.” In the days since his performance, Electronica has tweeted and Facebooked even more references to the NOI and its leadership. He’s clearly committed to asserting the presence of the NOI and NGE more broadly in hip-hop music and culture.

And he’s not alone in this NOI revival in hip-hop, and in black culture more broadly. Earlier this year, R&B artist Raheem DeVaughn collaborated with Chicago rapper Rhymefest to release “Final Call (Saviours’ Day).” The song’s title references both the NOI’s annual Saviours’ Day convention and itsFinal Call newspaper, sold by the FOI, who are also featured prominently in the music video.

The Fruit of Islam seem well suited for this role. When Jay Elect stepped to the stage with FOI in tow, he seemed to be channeling a moment from 25 years ago when Public Enemy took to the streets of Brooklyn, also with FOI, to film the Spike Lee-directed video for their anthem, “Fight the Power.” More than an entourage, the FOI’s military like presence conveys a charismatic power onto whomever they secure, a level of real-world seriousness: “They treated him like he was Barack Obama,” remarked one observer of the FOI guarding Jay Z at the festival.