There's a new debate about anti-Semitism in Germany. The Center for Research on Anti-Semitism at the Technical University of Berlin has compared it with hostility against Islam in a conference called "Perceived Enemy Muslim - Perceived Enemy Jew." This attempted comparison has met with rejection, since the term "Islamophobia" is primarily used during anti-Western and anti-Israeli agitation in Islamic countries.
"Islamophobia" does not refer to actual discrimination against Muslims, but to allegedly inappropriate criticism of Shari'a law and Islam in general. "Islamophobia is reaching the level of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s," said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in an interview in a Turkish newspaper. He is precisely in line with the general policy of his organization in the United Nations, as in the preparation for next year's UN Conference against Racism in Geneva "Islamophobia" will be targeted as a fundamental evil, while Israel will be discriminated against in already familiar anti-Semitic fashion.
Anti-Semitism and "Islamophobia" cannot be equated. Nobody wants to exterminate all Muslims or wipe out an Islamic country. Nobody blames all Muslims for every evil in the world. Just looking at what is written and published about Israel and Jews by Muslim institutions and in many Islamic countries highlights this fundamental difference. In Germany, this means police have to protect Jewish kindergardens, schools, institutions and synagogues around the clock. In contrast, anti-Islamic terrorism is virtually non-existent in Europe.
Instead, one finds a close cooperation between aggressive anti-Semitic Islamists and equally anti-Semitic neo-Nazis.
There is anti-Muslim discrimination in Germany, and we need to combat it together with progressive Muslims, since a large majority of German Muslims favor democratic values and integration. But reactionary or conservative Muslim organizations are not suitable allies in the fight against anti-Semitism.
IN THE CURRENT debate in Germany, some argue that the tendency to hold a collective accountable for the wrongdoings of individuals is a quality of hostility toward Islam, and this is also claimed to be an example of structural similarity with anti-Semitism. But considering the varying nature of "wrongdoing" involved, this would mean equating alleged Jewish wrongdoing in the financial market or the media with indisputable Islamic terrorism, jihadism and threats to eliminate Israel. To put these facts on the same level as theories is unacceptable and cannot be justified by the claim that one thereby aims to avoid a "hierarchy of victims."
In addition, one common side effect is that justified criticism of the conditions in Islamic societies is branded as "Islamophobic." In Germany it has been common to argue against the "Auschwitz-accusation" by comparing it to the indiscriminate Allied bombing of Dresden.
Equating "Islamophobia" and anti-Semitism relativizes not only the Holocaust, but also current anti-Semitic dangers. This is true especially for the genocidal anti-Semitic propaganda of Iran, but also in the terror threats coming from anti-Semitic organizations like Hamas or Hizbullah - with the latter still not banned in Germany. Thus, equating "Islamophobia" and anti-Semitism obstructs the struggle against anti-Semitism and, consequently, the politics of integration in Germany that attempt to overcome Islamic anti-Semitism. Finally, this false comparison also hobbles the boycott policies against Iran and its genocidal plans.
There are different research and political currents at the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism - as can be seen in its new yearbook - with good and acceptable contributions to the discussion. At the same time, there are those with the tendency to equate "Islamophobia" and anti-Semitism and, for instance, consider excessive "anti-Semitism charges" against Muslims as a central characteristic of "Islamophobia." It is hard to understand why there is no concern with the reverse case - the results of excessive "Islamophobia" charges against persons or states.
Yes, if one is so inclined, one can compare anything with anything - even Dresden with Auschwitz and "Islamophobia" with anti-Semitism. But one is obliged to point out when such a comparison is meaningless. This is true for both scientific research and politics.
The writer, former state secretary, is lawyer and publicist in Potsdam, Germany. He is a member of the Coordinating Council of German NGOs against Anti-Semitism.