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No Future in France: Dire Times for French Jews

Clearly, there are outward similarities between Judaism and Islam. Both religions originated in the Near East, and are -- as of 2012 -- related to Near or Middle East countries. Both use Semitic languages. Both insist on rituals, particularly in terms of gender roles, family life, or food, that do not fit with the current mainstream European way of life.

However, differences between Judaism and Islam may outweigh similarities. As far as Near Eastern or Middle Eastern countries are concerned, Muslims turn to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the strongholds of anti-Western hatred, while Jews turn to Israel, the super-Western “start-up nation.” In terms of ritual, kosher slaughtering -- a quasi-surgical operation -- is as remote from halal slaughtering as from secular slaughtering. Jewish circumcision is performed on newborn babies and is much closer to secular prophylactic circumcision (as it is largely practiced in the United States) than to Islamic circumcision, which is performed on boys in their preteens or early teens. And when it comes to relations between politics and religion, there is simply a chasm between the two religions. Judaism (including Orthodox Judaism) is not interested in mass conversion; does not seek to wrest Europe or any historically Christian part of the world from Christianity; recognizes the supremacy of state law over religious law in non-ritual matters; and sees Western democracy -- a polity based on the rule of law -- as the most legitimate political system.

But Europeans are not culturally equipped to understand such nuances or to keep them in mind (far less than the Americans, who are more religious-minded, more conversant in Biblical matters, and more familiar with the Jewish way of life). Jules Renard, an early 20th century French writer, wrote about his cat: “I keep telling him to hunt mice and let the canaries alone. Very subtle guidelines, I must admit. Even intelligent cats can get wrong on this issue.” And decide that eating canaries is easier and more satisfying than hunting mice. Regarding Judaism and Islam, most Europeans are like Renard’s cat. And what usually originates as a reaction against difficulties linked to radical brands of Islam quickly evolves into a primarily anti-Jewish business.