Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communities: Sources, Comparisons and Educational Challenges

By Gerstenfeld, Manfred | Jewish Political Studies Review, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communities: Sources, Comparisons and Educational Challenges


Gerstenfeld, Manfred, Jewish Political Studies Review


Günther Jikeli and Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun, eds., Perceptions of the Holocaust in Europe and Muslim Communites: Sources, Comparisons and Educational Challenges, New York: Springer, 2013, 196pp.

Reviewed by MANFRED GERSTENFELD

This book consists mainly of a collection of essays based on lectures presented at a conference that took place in Paris in Paris in 2010. The first editor, Günther Jikeli, from Germany, is a promising young European scholar of antisemitism. The second, Joëlle Allouche-Benayoun, is Associate Professor and Researcher at Groupe Socio lopes, Religions, Laïcités/Centre Nationale de Recherche Scientifique in France.

Several years ago the examination of attitudes of European Muslims toward the Holocaust became a significant factor in understanding contemporary Muslim-Jewish relations. The importance of this endeavor, however, has decreased in light of the increase of violent antisemitic attacks perpetrated by Muslims in Europe, the reactions to such violence, or the lack of responses on the part of Muslim communities and officials.1 The murders of Jews by Muslims include: a Jewish teacher and three children in Toulouse, France by Muhammad Merah in March 2012;2 four people in an attack on the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014 by Mehdi Nemmouche, from France who had spent a year as a jihadi in Syria;3 four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris by Amedy Coulibaly in January 2015;4 and a security guard of a Copenhagen synagogue by Omar el-Hussein in February 2015-5 Indeed, Sammy Ghozlan, head of the National Bureau for Vigilance against Antisemitism in France, has remarked that the vast majority of violent attacks against Jews in France are carried out by Muslims.6

Therefore, one must regard this study of attitudes of European Muslims toward the Holocaust against the background of the more urgent issue of increasing violence against the Jews of Europe. The book, however, is extremely useful because it provides avast amount of information. Particularly important is its central message that seems to deny what scholars have referred to as the binary presence of Islamists and ordinary Muslims. In fact, Muslim communities in Europe are far more diversified and cannot be stereotyped. An additional contribution of this study is that it shows that many Muslims do not view the history of European countries, of which the Holocaust is an essential part, as their own, because their ancestors did not live in Europe during the period of the Holocaust. This type of reasoning is important because minority groups that aspire to integrate successfully into majority society usually adopt major elements of the history of their new country of residence as part of their own.

Like most other books based on conference lectures, the quality of the articles varies. Michael Whine, of the Community Security Trust in the United Kingdom, is one of the few experts familiar with antisemitism and terrorism in Europe. He mentions Muslim organizations and leaders that have chosen to participate in Holocaust commemorations as well as those who have avoided or refused to attend. This varies from country to country. Furthermore, Whine points out that the overwhelming consensus among Muslims is that while the Holocaust did take place, Israel and the Zionist media exaggerate the number of Jews who perished. (38)

Rifat N. Bali adds to our insight with regard to Turkish attitudes toward Jews and Israel. In his essay on the perceptions of the Holocaust in Turkey, Bali explains that while Turkish media, politicians and civil elites frequently refer to the genocide of the Jews, the word "Holocaust," as such, is not used. Turkish scholars often use the term "Nazi Holocaust" in order to avoid any comparison with Turkish massacres of Armenians during World War I.

Gunther Jikeli discusses his research on the perceptions of the Holocaust among young Muslims in Berlin, Paris and London. His findings have been published in his doctoral dissertation. …

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