Posts Tagged ‘Germany’


American politics often seizes up atop the slippery slope. When common sense dictates compromise, Democrats and Republicans refuse to take a first small step. They reason that a tiny compromise will lead to larger compromises eroding their core principles. Europe, too, faces a slippery slope in regard to refugees fleeing the Middle East and South Asia.

We’re all familiar with rickety boats crossing—or sinking in—the Mediterranean. Refugees come ashore in Greece and Italy then go on. Hungary, a way station to prosperous Germany, closed its border. Croatia, another way station, will no longer offer refuge. Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said of refugees, “They will get food, water and medical help, and then they can move on… We have hearts, but we also have heads.”

Many Europeans are welcoming. Others fear the slippery slope. Let some refugees in and the inflow will become uncontrollable. Resources will dwindle. Moreover, as more Muslims gain a foothold in “Christian” Europe the Continent as we know it will cease to be.

How do you look into a child’s eyes and tell a family to return to a land of violence? For now, Europe doesn’t want to do that although it lacks a coordinated refugee strategy. Germany announced plans to host 800,000 refugees over the next year. The flow increased. Germany raised its target to one million. Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledges German wealth and organizational skills. She also recognizes the moral issue confronting Germany, which slaughtered six million Jews and millions of others.

So we can all feel good, right? I think not. I’d love to believe that generosity of spirit always leads to universal peace and love. I can’t. Europe has done a poor job of assimilating millions of Muslims already settled within its borders. The Germans hold their large population of Turks, many native-born, pretty much apart. In turn, Turkish Germans remain aloof. They welcome German jobs. They’re uncomfortable with liberal Western culture, including equal rights for women and people with a range of sexual orientations. Across Europe and in the U.K., Muslim communities often find themselves at odds with mainstream society because of differing religious and cultural norms.

Maybe I’m prejudiced—influenced by the plight of Europe’s Jews. Young friends in Sweden (see “Should Jews Leave Europe?”) believe they cannot bring up Jewish children in their homeland because of Muslim anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes. Parisian Jews visited my synagogue this summer. They want to come to America because Jewish life in France is perilous. French Muslims make it so. Several years ago, a film producer in London told me that the Jewish community is terribly frightened of Muslim hostility and influence. Yet it’s difficult for these Jews—educated and successful—to get into the U.S.

If Europe were as capable as the United States in assimilating people from different cultures, I’d encourage it to take in large numbers of refugees. Europe is not, and I can’t. Of course, the decision is Europe’s. But even now, European nations are taking a closer look at the challenges they face.

Still, even if Europe eventually closes off immigration, it will have ingested a significant number of Muslims. The conundrum—and it’s particularly upsetting at this time of year—is whether Europe can digest them.

I wish all who observe a peaceful, healthy and happy New Year. May you be sealed in the Book of Life.

Read the first two chapters of FLIGHT OF THE SPUMONIS here at You can get a signed copy from me or order a soft cover or e-book at

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Some people believe that outrage in the name of religion—or religious hatred—only happens “there.” Not quite. But along with the bad news, there’s also good news.

In Cologne, Germany, a regional court banned circumcision for children stating that the procedure does bodily harm without consent. German Jews and Muslims—along with co-religionists worldwide—protested vociferously. For Jews, the Torah (Genesis 17:12) commands circumcision on the eighth day of life. The Qu’ran does not mention circumcision for Muslims, but circumcision remains a long-standing tradition carried out at different ages—often as young as seven days—depending on geographic, religious and cultural factors.

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee—thirty miles from Nashville—American Muslims sued to be able to open a new Mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in time for the holy month of Ramadan, which began last night. In September 2010, four residents of Rutherford County filed suit to block the mosque citing a “risk of terrorism generated by proselytizing for Islam and inciting the practices of Sharia law.” They insisted that the Islamic center not be approved until it demonstrated it was not interested in “the overthrow of the American system of government, laws and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.”

Ignorance begets hatred. Religious majorities often know little or nothing about the minorities among them. And I’m not referring only to people in the “hinterlands.” I’ve found this to be true here in San Francisco. Anti-Semites around the world still condemn Jews as threats to the national order. And let’s not be naïve. Islam has generated a significant number of zealots who seek to impose their own religious views and practices. Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, have suffered. But restricting legitimate religious practices offers no answer.

So, all this being stated, let’s give credit where it’s due. The German federal government opposes the circumcision ban. Prime Minister Angela Merkel stated, “I do not want Germany to be the only country in the world where Jews cannot practice their rituals. Otherwise we will become a laughing stock.” Ms. Merkel might have stated, “I do not want Germany to be morally offensive to the world,” but she made her point. Yesterday, the lower house of parliament passed a resolution protecting circumcision for religious reasons.

In the U.S. this week, the Justice Department and the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro filed lawsuits. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell ruled that a final building inspection must be conducted to enable the mosque to open.

We frequently hear religious bodies in the U.S.—usually conservative—decry Washington’s restrictions on religious freedom. Concerns should be addressed. For example, discussions regarding providing insurance for abortions to employees at religious institutions opposed to abortion merit consideration. The issues are complex. But I would state that our government favors religious freedom—not for any particular group but for all. And it manages to act quite admirably to uphold religious thought and action provided believers do not impose their views on others.

That’s my take on the matter. Of course, when you’re part of a religious minority, you tend to view our Constitution as a document that does more than provide religious freedom on a selective basis.

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