Kippah and the city: German Jews urged to avoid wearing skull caps after Berlin attack
Germany is becoming increasingly unsafe for Jews to publicly identify themselves amid a wave of anti-Semitic incidents, Josef Schuster, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, said in an interview with local radio RBB24. The comment follows the April 16 attack on Jewish man Adam Armush and his friend in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. Armush, who was wearing a kippah – a traditional Jewish head garment – filmed and shared the assault online, provoking a massive reaction. In response, the local Jewish community has planned a protest dubbed “Berlin wears a kippah,” which has since been supported in other cities.
However, while Schuster believes that defiantly wearing a kippah would be the right response “in principle,” he advised Jews to stay on the safe side in big cities, and maybe settle for a baseball cap instead. In “problem neighborhoods with large Muslim populations… it might be better to choose a different head covering,” he said.
When directly asked if he links the rise in anti-Semitic incidents to the recent influx of migrants and refugees from Muslim-majority countries, Schuster insisted that it contributed to it, but was not the only factor. He believes that racist and xenophobic sentiments still linger within a sizeable portion of the German population, Muslims included. At the same time, he called to avoid “casting suspicion on all Muslims.”
Earlier, Schuster said in a statement that religious organizations are also responsible for combating hatred against Jews, just like politicians and society in general. He then demanded that Muslim communities “send a clear and explicit signal against anti-Semitism within their own ranks.” “There should be no tolerance for intolerance!” he added.
The assault on Armush, who was confronted by a young man swinging his belt and shouting “Yahudi,” which is Arabic for “Jew,” became all the more controversial after it was uncovered that the attacker was a 19-year-old Syrian refugee.
The problem of Muslim immigrants bringing anti-Semitism into Germany has since been publicly acknowledged, even by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose unchanging course for an open-door policy has cost her a chunk of her former ratings and boosted her right-wing opponents.
“We have a new phenomenon, as we have many refugees among who there are, for example, people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country,” Merkel said an interview with Israeli Channel 10. While she was reacting to the assault on Armush, it was only the latest case of anti-Semitism in German media’s spotlight.
In March, a report emerged, claiming a Jewish girl was verbally assaulted by her Muslim classmate, who threatened to beat and even kill her because of her religion. Another case took place in Berlin where a Jewish student was forced to change schools, following violent bullying by classmates.
Merkel’s party CDU and the sister Bavarian party CSU have been trying to score some points with frustrated voters ever since CDU showed the worst election result since 1949 at the 2017 polls. Earlier, CDU/CSU announced that they were preparing legislation that could see migrants expressing anti-Semitic views deported from the country. The conservative CSU has recently symbolically introduced Christian crosses in public institutions to strengthen the display of Bavarian “cultural identity and Christian-western influence.”
In the meantime, the head of an Islamic community in the German city of Wiesbaden, Dawood Nazirizadeh, told RT he thinks there is no actual rise in the number of hate crimes in Germany. “What is new is that these crimes are now registered as such,” the imam said. Singling out one particular group would not be helpful, Nazirizadeh believes.
“We all have our own prejudices,” the imam said, adding that people should acknowledge this fact and overcome it through dialogue. He also called for the development of strategies that would “enlighten the whole society” and help combat any “group-focused enmity.” “We must encourage dialogue between all social groups and religions in such a way that it would be both interesting and based on mutual respect,” Nazirizadeh said.
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