„What did my grandparents do during the Holocaust? What would I have done?“
These two questions torture many Germans. The second question is particularly tormenting when the answer to the first question is that the grandparents looked the other way or even actively participated in the extermination of the Jews. That’s why many Germans don’t want to know the answer to the first question. But, then they’re all the more certain when answering the second question: „I would have stood up for the Jews!“
There’s only one problem. It’s difficult to prove that one would stand up for Jews when there are so few of them left. How can you stand up for Jews if you’ve never met even one?
Over eighty million people live in Germany. Of these, less than two hundred thousand are Jews, which is a mere one quarter of one percent. Among a group of four hundred Germans you’ll find perhaps one Jew. In many villages and many smaller towns in Germany there aren’t any Jewish residents. How can you show that you have nothing against Jews? Well, you need replacement Jews!
Four and a half million Muslims live in Germany. That makes 5.5 percent of the population in Germany. When twenty Germans meet, there is certainly a Muslim among them. Islam belongs quite naturally to Germany. Islam is a part of Germany. If a German is not a Muslim himself, he certainly has neighbours, friends or colleagues who are German Muslims.
Muslims in Germany are indeed a minority, like Judaism, but not so small that one could not know any Muslims. So why not take Muslims as substitute Jews to show that you have nothing against Jews? Islam is a religion like Judaism and there are many people who don’t like Muslims. So, it’s quite logical that Muslims are the new Jews, right?
The Germans who once persecuted Jews were Christians or came from a Christian environment. Their Christian faith did not stop them from hating Jews. In many cases the Christian faith even promoted hatred of the Jews. Martin Luther was a fervent Jew-hater. In the churches of Germany Jews were denigrated as murderers of Christ. The credo was: „Extra ecclesiam nulla salus“ („Outside the church there is no salvation“).
Over the centuries Christianity was a brutal and coercive missionary religion. Missionary Christians believed their religion was the only path to salvation. Non-Christians were seen as adversaries to truth. Through their very existence, Jews were considered a provocation because of their refusal to recognize Jesus as the true Messiah. Two choices were made clear: accept the Christian faith or face extermination. It was the Enlightenment that put an end to this fundamentalism.
After the Holocaust, Pope John XXIII redefined the Catholic Church’s attitude in 1965 to non-Christian religions in the declaration „Nostra aetate“ („In our time“). It was recognized that truth and holiness could be found in the other religions. Judaism, in which Christianity is rooted, was reaffirmed as legitimate religion. The declaration softened the extreme „Extra ecclesiam nulla salus“ and stated instead: There are also religious truths outside the Catholic Church.
Islam is also a missionary religion. There are also many anti-Jewish passages in Muslim traditions. There are countries where Islam rules and all Jews have been expelled. There are Islamic children’s programs where funny cartoon-like figures teach children to hate Jews in the name of Allah. The word „Jew“ is often used as a curse word on school playgrounds. In recent years all terrorist acts committed against Jews in Jewish schools, museums, shops and homes in Europe are Islamist motivated.
It is irrelevant to Jews what percentage of all Muslims hate Jews. With over 1.6 billion Muslims and 15 million Jews worldwide, a mere one percent of fanatical Muslims adds up to more than all Jews in existence. Major studies show that far more than one percent of all Muslims have fanatical beliefs.
After Christianity, Islam is the second strongest religious force in Germany. The Jewish community has never been as strong as the Muslim community in Germany. Islam is the second largest religion in the world after Christianity. Several countries have Islam as their state religion. Muslims are as little „the new Jews“ as Christians are, although Christians in many Islamic countries are massively oppressed, expelled and murdered.
Christianity is currently the most persecuted religion in the world. According to estimates of the International Society for Human Rights, over seventy percent of all people who are currently persecuted for their faith profess Christianity. The Christian relief organization Open Doors estimates that more than 200 million Christians worldwide are persecuted or discriminated against. According to its global persecution index of 2019, the strongest persecutions of Christians takes place in Islamic countries.
Nevertheless, it is inappropriate to describe these Christians as „the new Jews“. Hatred of Jews is not only hatred of a religion, but also racist hatred. Hatred is not only directed against beliefs, but against the very physical existence. This racist hatred of Jews is found among Christians and Muslims. Therefore, neither group can be considered „the Jews of today“.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t prevent many Germans from declaring Muslims their very own substitute Jews in order to prove they are not like their grandparents. This leads to an attitude that sees any criticism of Islam, however justified, as Islamophobic. But here, people forget that sharply expressed criticism of Christianity was essential in combating hatred of Jews.
Criticism of Islam is not Islamophobic, but necessary in order to counter Islam’s hostility towards Jews!
Many Germans who have chosen Muslims as substitute Jews have quite a different opinion. They are particularly angry when Jews – of all people – dare to tell them that Muslims are not „the new Jews“, but rather that for many Jews today they are as dangerous as Christians were a few hundred years ago. Some go so far as to declare Jews to be the „new Nazis“, especially when it comes to Israel whereby the “substitute Jews” join hands with non-Muslim Germans to condemn the country as a Nazi state that persecutes Palestinians as the Nazis had done to the Jews during World War Two.
It all falls into place so wonderfully: Muslims are the new Jews, Jews are the new Nazis and the Germans are all heroes in a film of their own making. They defend the Jews! The newly defined ones of course; the attitude towards the old ones remains the same.
But Muslims are not „the new Jews“. They are rather the new medieval Christians. They should also be treated like them, with the necessary criticism and ridicule. But, where they are persecuted today merely because of their religion, we should fight for their basic rights. A new Enlightenment is needed!